Chapter no 2

The Heir (The Selection, 4)

AFTER WORKING ON THE BUDGET report for a few hours, I decided I needed a break and retreated to my room to get a hand massage from Neena. I loved those little bits of luxury in my day. Dresses made to my exact measurements, exotic desserts flown in simply because it was Thursday, and an endless supply of beautiful things were all perks; and they were easily my favorite parts of the job.

My room overlooked the gardens. As the day shifted, the light changed to a warm, honey color, brightening the high walls. I focused on the heat and Neena’s deliberate fingers.

“Anyway, his face got all funny. It was kind of like he disappeared for a minute.”

I was trying to explain Dad’s out-of-character departure this morning, but it was hard to get it across. I didn’t even know if he found Mom or not, as he never came back to the office.

‌“Do you think he’s sick? He does seem tired these days.” Neena’s hands worked her magic as she spoke.

“Does he?” I asked, thinking that Dad didn’t seem tired exactly. “He’s probably just stressed. How could he not be with all the decisions he has to make?”

“And someday that will be you,” she commented, her tone a mix of genuine worry and playful amusement.

“Which means you will be giving me twice as many massages.”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I think in a few years I might like to try something new.”

I scrunched my face. “What else would you do? There aren’t many positions better than working in the palace.”

There was a knock on the door, and she didn’t have a chance to answer the question.

I stood, throwing my blazer back on to look presentable, and gave a nod to Neena to let my guests in.

Mom came around the door, smiling, with Dad contentedly trailing her steps. I couldn’t help but notice it was always this way. At state events or important dinners, Mom was beside Dad or situated right behind him. But when they were just husband and wife—not king and queen—he followed her


“Hi, Mom.” I walked over to hug her.

Mom tucked my hair behind my ear, smiling at me. “I like this look.”

I stood back proudly and smoothed out my dress with my hands. “The bracelets really set it off, don’t you think?”

‌She giggled. “Excellent attention to detail.” Every once in a while Mom let me pick out jewelry or shoes for her, but it was rare. Mom didn’t find it as much fun as I did, and she didn’t rely on the extras for beauty. In her case, she really didn’t need it. I liked that she was classic.

Mom turned and touched Neena’s shoulder. “You’re excused,” she said quietly.

Neena instantly curtsied and left us alone. “Is something wrong?” I asked.

“No, sweetheart. We simply want to speak in private.” Dad held out a hand and ushered us all to the table. “We have an opportunity to talk to you about.”

“Opportunity? Are we traveling?” I adored traveling. “Please tell me we’re finally going on a beach trip. Could it just be the six of us?”

“Not exactly. We wouldn’t be going somewhere so much as having visitors,” Mom explained.

“Oh! Company! Who’s coming?”

They exchanged glances, then Mom continued talking. “You know that things are precarious right now. The people are restless and unhappy, and we cannot figure out how to ease the tension.”

I sighed. “I know.”

“We’re seeking a way to boost morale,” Dad added.

I perked up. Morale boosting typically involved a celebration. And I was always up for a party.

“What did you have in mind?” I started designing a new dress in my head and dismissed it almost as quickly. That wasn’t what needed my attention at the moment.

‌“Well,” Dad started, “the public responds best to something positive with our family. When your mother and I were married, it was one of the best seasons in our country. And do you remember how people threw parties in the street when they found out Osten was coming?”

I smiled. I was eight when Osten was born, and I’d never forget how excited everyone got just over the announcement. I heard music playing from my bedroom practically until dawn.

“That was marvelous.”

“It was. And now the people look to you. It won’t be long before you’re

queen.” Dad paused. “We thought that perhaps you’d be willing to do something publicly, something that would be exciting for the people but also might be very beneficial to you.”

I narrowed my eyes, not sure where this was going. “I’m listening.”

Mom cleared her throat. “You know that in the past, princesses were married off to princes from other countries to solidify our international relations.”

“I did hear you use the past tense there, correct?” She laughed, but I wasn’t amused. “Yes.”

“Good. Because Prince Nathaniel looks like a zombie, Prince Hector dances like a zombie, and if the prince from the German Federation doesn’t learn to embrace personal hygiene by the Christmas party, he shouldn’t be invited.”

Mom rubbed the side of her head in frustration. “Eadlyn, you’ve always been so picky.”

‌Dad shrugged. “Maybe that’s not a bad thing,” he said, earning a glare from Mom.

I frowned. “What in the world are you talking about?” “You know how your mother and I met,” Dad began.

I rolled my eyes. “Everyone does. You two are practically a fairy tale.”

At those words their eyes went soft, and smiles washed over their faces. Their bodies seemed to tilt slightly toward each other, and Dad bit his lip looking at Mom.

“Excuse me. Firstborn in the room, do you mind?”

Mom blushed as Dad cleared his throat and continued. “The Selection process was very successful for us. And though my parents had their problems, it worked well for them, too. So . . . we were hoping. . . .” He hesitated and met my eyes.

I was slow to pick up on their hints. I knew what the Selection was, but never, not even once, had it been suggested as an option for any of us, let alone me.


Mom put up her hands, cautioning me. “Just listen—” “A Selection?” I burst out. “That’s insane!”

“Eadlyn, you’re being irrational.”

I glared at her. “You promised—you promised—you’d never force me into marrying someone for an alliance. How is this any better?”

“Hear us out,” she urged.

“No!” I shouted. “I won’t do it.” “Calm down, love.”

‌“Don’t talk to me like that. I’m not a child!” Mom sighed. “You’re certainly acting like one.”

“You’re ruining my life!” I ran my fingers through my hair and took several deep breaths, hoping it would help me think. This couldn’t happen. Not to me.

“It’s a huge opportunity,” Dad insisted. “You’re trying to shackle me to a stranger!”

“I told you she’d be stubborn,” Mom muttered to Dad. “Wonder where she gets that from,” he shot back with a smile. “Don’t talk about me like I’m not in the room!”

“I’m sorry,” Dad said. “We just need you to consider this.” “What about Ahren? Can’t he do it?”

“Ahren isn’t going to be the future king. Besides, he has Camille.”

Princess Camille was the heir to the French throne, and a few years ago she’d managed to bat her lashes all the way into Ahren’s heart.

“Then make them get married!” I pleaded.

“Camille will be queen when her time comes, and she, like you, will have to ask her partner to marry her. If it was Ahren’s choice, we’d consider it; but it’s not.”

“What about Kaden? Can’t you have him do it?”

Mom laughed humorlessly. “He’s fourteen! We don’t have that kind of time. The people need something to be excited about now.” She narrowed her eyes at me. “And, honestly, isn’t it time you look for someone to rule beside you?”

‌Dad nodded. “It’s true. It’s not a role that should be shouldered alone.” “But I don’t want to get married,” I pleaded. “Please don’t make me do

this. I’m only eighteen.”

“Which is how old I was when I married your father,” Mom stated.

“I’m not ready,” I urged. “I don’t want a husband. Please don’t do this to me.”

Mom reached across the table and put her hand on mine. “No one would be doing anything to you. You would be doing something for your people. You’d be giving them a gift.”

“You mean faking a smile when I’d rather cry?”

She gave me a fleeting frown. “That has always been part of our job.” I stared at her, silently demanding a better answer.

“Eadlyn, why don’t you take some time to think this over?” Dad said calmly. “I know this is a big thing we’re asking of you.”

“Does that mean I have a choice?”

Dad inhaled deeply, considering. “Well, love, you’ll really have thirty-five


I leaped up from my chair, pointing toward the door. “Get out!” I demanded. “Get! Out!”

Without another word they left my room.

Didn’t they know who I was, what they’d trained me for? I was Eadlyn Schreave. No one was more powerful than me.

So if they thought I was going down without a fight, they were sadly mistaken.

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