Home > The Crown (The Selection #5)(2)

The Crown (The Selection #5)(2)
Kiera Cass

“And on your own, I’m afraid. If you choose to go through with this—and after yesterday, no one would blame you if you didn’t—only you can make such an important choice.”

I nodded. “I know. Which is why this is so scary.”

“Ten seconds,” the floor director called.

Gavril patted my shoulder. “I’m here in whatever way I can be, Your Highness.”

“Thank you.”

I squared my shoulders in front of the camera, trying to look calm as the light began glowing red.

“Good morning, people of Illéa. I, Princess Eadlyn Schreave, am here to address some recent events that have taken place in the royal family. I shall deliver the good news first.” I tried to smile, really I did, but all I could think of was how abandoned I felt.

“My beloved brother, Prince Ahren Schreave, has married Princess Camille de Sauveterre of France. Though the timing of their wedding was a bit of a surprise, it in no way lessens our joy for the happy couple. I hope you will join me in wishing them both the happiest of marriages.”

I paused. You can do this, Eadlyn.

“In sadder news, last night, my mother, America Schreave, queen of Illéa, suffered a very serious heart attack.”

I paused. The words felt like they had created a dam in my throat, making it harder and harder to speak.

“She is in critical condition and is under constant medical supervision. Please pr—”

I brought my hand to my mouth. I was going to cry. I was going to lose it on national television, and on top of everything Ahren had said about how people felt about me, appearing weak was the last thing I wanted.

I looked down. Mom needed me. Dad needed me. Maybe, in a small way, even the country needed me. I couldn’t disappoint them. Dabbing away the tears, I went on.

“Please pray for her speedy recovery, as we all adore her and still depend on her guidance.”

I breathed. It was the only way to get from any moment to the next. Breathe in, breathe out.

“My mother held such great respect for the Selection, which, as you all know, led to my parents’ long and happy marriage. As such, I’ve decided to honor what I know would be her deepest wish and continue with my own Selection.

“Due to the stress placed on our household in the last twenty-four hours, I think it wise to cut my suitors down to the Elite. My father narrowed his field to six instead of ten because of extenuating circumstances, and I have done the same. The following six gentlemen have been invited to stay on in the Selection: Sir Gunner Croft, Sir Kile Woodwork, Sir Ean Cabel, Sir Hale Garner, Sir Fox Wesley, and Sir Henri Jaakoppi.”

These names were a strangely comforting thing, like I knew how proud they were of this moment and I could feel the glow of it, even from a distance.

It was almost done. They knew Ahren was gone, that my mother might die, and that the Selection would carry on. Now came the news I was terrified to deliver. Thanks to Ahren, I understood exactly what my people thought of me. What kind of response would I receive?

“With my mother in such a delicate state, my father, King Maxon Schreave, has chosen to remain by her side.” Here goes. “As such, he has named me regent until he feels fit to reclaim his title. I will make all decisions of state until further notice. It is with a heavy heart that I assume this role, but it gives me great joy to bring any peace to my parents.

“We will have more updates on all these matters as they become available. Thank you for your time, and good day.”

The cameras stopped rolling, and I moved just off the stage, sitting in one of the chairs that were usually reserved for my family. I felt queasy and would have sat there for hours trying to regain my composure if I thought I could get away with it, but there was too much to do. The first thing on the list was to check on Mom and Dad again, then off to work. At some point today I would have to meet with the Elite as well.

As I went to exit the studio, I stopped short because my path was blocked by a row of gentlemen. The first face I saw was Hale’s. His expression lit up as he held out a flower. “For you.”

I looked down the line and saw they all had flowers in their hands, some with roots still noticeably attached. All I could assume was that they had heard their names on the announcement, rushed from the Men’s Parlor to the garden, and come down here.

“You idiots,” I sighed. “Thank you.”

I took Hale’s flower and hugged him. “I know I said something every day,” he whispered, “but let me know if you need me to up it to two, okay?”

I held him a little tighter. “Thanks.”

Ean was next, and though we’d only ever touched during those staged photos of our date, I found myself unable to refrain from embracing him.

“I get the feeling you were coerced into this,” I murmured.

“I took mine from a vase in the hallway. Don’t tell the staff on me.”

I patted his back, and he did the same to me.

“She’ll be okay,” he promised. “You all will.”

Kile had pricked his finger on a thorn and held his bleeding hand awkwardly away from my clothes as we hugged, which made me laugh and was perfect.

“For smiles,” Henri said as I added his flower to my messy bouquet.

“Good, good,” I replied, and he laughed at me.

Even Erik had gotten me a flower. I smirked a bit as I took it.

“This is a dandelion,” I told him.

He shrugged. “I know. Some see a weed; some see a flower. Perspective.”

I wrapped my arms around him, and I could feel him looking at the others as I held him, seeming uncomfortable to be getting the same treatment as they had.

Gunner swallowed, not able to say much, but held me gently before I moved on.

Fox had three flowers in his hand. “I couldn’t pick.”

I smiled. “They’re all beautiful. Thanks.”

Fox’s embrace was tight, like he needed the support more than the others did. I held on to him as I looked back at my Elite.

No, this whole process made no sense, but I could see how it happened, how your heart could get swept up in the endeavor. And that was my hope now: that somehow duty and love would overlap, and I’d find myself happy in the middle of it all.

MOM’S HANDS FELT SO SOFT, almost papery in a way. The feeling made me think of how water smoothed out the edges of a stone. I smiled, thinking she must have been a very rough stone once upon a time.

“Did you ever used to get it wrong?” I asked. “Say the wrong words, do the wrong things?”

I waited for an answer, receiving nothing but the hum of equipment and the beat of the monitor.

“Well, you and Dad used to fight, so you must have been wrong sometimes.”

I held her hand tighter, trying to warm it in mine.

“I made all the announcements. Now everyone knows about Ahren getting married and that you’re a little … indisposed at the moment. I cut the boys down to six. I know that’s a big cut, but Dad said it was okay and that he did that when it was his turn, so no one can get upset.” I sighed. “Regardless, I have a feeling people will still find a way to get upset with me.”

I blinked back tears, worried she’d sense how scared I was. The doctors believed that the shock of Ahren’s departure was the catalyst for her current condition, though I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d contributed to her stress daily, like drops of poison so small someone didn’t realize they’d ingested something dangerous until it had overtaken them.

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