Chapter no 16 – Corrick

Defy the Night

don’t want to take Tessa to another room. I want to keep her here, right here, where I know no one can hurt her. Where she can’t take any actions that will force my hand.

I want to sneak her out of the palace and over the wall and back into the workshop, where we can stand in the quiet relight as Wes and Tessa.

Where I can help my subjects instead of harming them.

What I want never matters, so I lead her down the hushed hallway, our feet making little noise on the velvet carpeting. She’s barefoot, her hair long and unbound down her back, her hand clutching that scrap of fabric against her shoulder. My guards have the good sense to keep their eyes forward.

Quint has chosen the Emerald Room, which, contrary to its name, is decorated in shades of red and pink, from the satin coverlets on the bed to the heavy curtains that line the walls. e only element of green at all is the massive jewel hanging from the neck of the woman in the portrait over the

replace. My great-grandmother. It’s a good room, nothing too grand for someone who is ostensibly a prisoner, but de nitely a sign that Tessa is not someone destined for the Hold.

Four guards have been stationed by the door, which feels like overkill, but then I consider how easily she got inside the palace and I say nothing.

We stop outside the door to her room, and she glances at the guards, her eyes a bit wide.

ey won’t harm you,” I say. “Unless you try to leave.” “at’s it?” she whispers.

“If you wake early, the guards can call for food.” “You’re leaving me here. Alone.”

“Should I not?”

She shakes her head quickly, then steps across the threshold and turns to face me, as if she thinks I’m going to grab her arm and jerk her back out.

“And I can close the door,” she says. “I recommend it.”

She stares at me for the longest moment, then grabs hold of the door and swings it closed soly. Aer a moment, I hear a key turn in the lock.

I glance at the man closest to the door. I don’t know every single guard by name, but I know Lieutenant Molnar. He’s older, well into his sixties, with thick graying hair. He served my grandparents, and then my parents, and now us. He’s quiet, but he knows his job, and he does it well. He follows orders and doesn’t gossip—and he’s senior enough that he won’t let the others do it either.

“You have a key?” I say to him. “Yes, Your Highness.”


I should return to my own chambers, but I’m too rattled, too unsettled. I feel like I’ll never sleep again.

I hate you.

When she said it to Wes, she never meant it.

When she said it to Prince Corrick, I could feel her conviction in every syllable. I. Hate. You.

I walk past my chambers, guards trailing me as I stride down the hallway.

ey don’t usually shadow me everywhere, but I’m sure Tessa’s sudden appearance has their captain spooked.

I stop in front of Harristan’s door. His guards tell me he’s asleep, but I’m the only person they’d allow through without protest. I slip through the door like a ghost, carefully easing it closed so the latch doesn’t click. e only light in the room comes from the hearth, which has burned down to embers. A tray with teacups and saucers sits on the side table, but one is on the table near Harristan’s bed. Good.

I can hear his breathing from here. Not good.

I rub my hands over my face and sit in the armchair near his desk. A leather folio sits on top of all his other documents, the seal from Artis.

I ease it off the desk and ip the cover open. ey’ve submitted an amended request for funding. Jonas is wasting no time. I pinch the bridge of

my nose. “Cory.”

I glance up. Harristan is blinking at me from the bed. “You’re supposed to be sleeping,” I say.

“So are you.” He pauses. “What did you do to the girl?” “She’s sleeping in the Emerald Room. Under heavy guard.” “No.” He gives me a look. “What did you do?”

“Nothing. I fed her dinner and sent her to bed.” He studies me. I study him back.

I want to tell him. I’ve wanted to tell him for years. He’d understand my drive to get out of the palace, to get out of the Royal Sector. He’s the one who taught me how to sneak out, how to scale the wall and get lost in the pleasures of the Wilds. He’s the one who always wanted freedom from this place.

I’m the one who got it, even if only for a short while, and it seems unfair to taunt him with the knowledge.

Even if it’s over. I’m done.

Regardless, it’s as treasonous an act as anything I could come up with. I was stealing from our subjects. I was acting in direct opposition to his orders

—in direct opposition to orders I’m expected to enforce. If anyone found out, it would be a scandal beyond measure.

Harristan’s gaze is heavy, as if he can pick apart my secrets with nothing more than his eyes, and I nally have to look away.

He clears his throat. “I nd it hard to believe that you’d oer leniency to someone who snuck into the palace to kill me.”

He’s right, but I can oer him this truth. “She snuck in to steal medicine.

She meant no harm.” “A smuggler?”

“Not quite.” I think of the books in her pack, the way Quint thought we would need spin. “She has many theories about how to adjust the dosage of Moon ower elixir to make it more eective.” is isn’t a lie, but it feels like one. I pause. “She steals medicine and distributes it among the people. For those who cannot aord it.”

at turns him quiet for a long time, as I thought it might. Regardless of what people think, Harristan isn’t heartless. e dwindling re snaps in the hearth. “Do you think there are many who do this?”

I shake my head. “I have no idea.”

“When the guards said someone breeched the palace, I thought revolution had nally found us.”

I think of the true smugglers who escaped, the way the crowd called for rebellion. “It still might.”

He falls quiet again, but this time, his eyelids icker. “Sleep,” I say soly. I stand. “I’ll leave.”

“Cory.” His voice catches me before I reach the door. I stop and turn. “What?”

ere’s something you’re not telling me about her.”

My brother rarely dwells in details, and it usually serves him well. But there are times, like now, when something earns his focus, and it’s always hard to shake it loose.

I’ve been quiet too long, and the silence swells between us.

“I know people keep secrets from me,” he says. “I didn’t think you were among them.”

If his voice was harsh or full of censure, I’d deny it. But Harristan is rarely like that with me, especially not when we’re alone. ere are few people who have his full trust in the palace. I might be the only one. For the barest instant, I wonder if this might chip away at it.

“I keep no secrets that put you at risk,” I say. “I know,” he says equably.

Of course he does. But it puts my mind at ease. But then he says, “I’d like to talk to her.”

I wonder how that will go. I imagine Tessa throwing a punch at my brother, or tossing a drink in his face. ere are a million things she could say that would end with her in the Hold—or worse. ere are a million questions Harristan could ask—and a million wrong answers that will put Tessa in danger.

But he’s the king, and no matter how much power I have, he has more. I nod. “I’ll arrange it.”

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