Chapter no 31

The Heir (The Selection, 4)

CAMILLE LOOKED FLAWLESS ON THE front of every paper and a few of the gossip magazines that tended to equate our family with movie stars and singers. She brightened the mood in the Women’s Room simply by sitting there, and Aunt May came to visit for a few days solely to see her.

I knew why I had problems with Josie. She was bratty and juvenile and tried so hard to be me that I felt like I had to be overly guarded when she was near. But it was more complicated with Camille. Even her perfection was a quiet thing, as if she hardly noticed it at all. So though I really, really wanted to hate her, I knew that would look much worse for me than for the sweet, unassuming French girl.

‌“How is your mother?” Mom asked Camille, and something about her tone made it seem like she felt obligated to inquire about Queen Daphne. It was the one subject that seemed to take any effort between them.

Mom handed her a cup of tea, and Camille happily took it, pausing as she thought through her answer.

“Very well. She wanted me to send you her love.”

“I’ve been seeing pictures of her lately, and she looks the most content I’ve ever seen her.” Mom placed her hands in her lap, smiling kindly. This comment felt more genuine.

“She is,” Camille agreed. “I don’t know what’s come over her, but she has never been more joyful. And her happiness only makes me happier.” Her eyes grew soft at the thought of her mother, and again I was forced to wonder exactly what was going on in the French palace.

“So,” Josie said, crossing her legs quite dramatically and taking over the conversation. “Any chance we’ll be hearing wedding bells in your future?”

Camille bashfully looked away, and everyone laughed.

“Perhaps,” she hedged. “I know Ahren is the one, but we both want to find the proper time.”

Miss Marlee sighed. “So I suppose in the middle of the Selection is not at the top of the list.”

“Never!” Camille laid a hand on my lap. “I wouldn’t take this moment from such a dear friend!”

Miss Marlee and Miss Lucy clutched their hands together at the thought. “Which reminds me.” Camille straightened up. “Eadlyn, you have told me

nothing. What are these boys like?”

I chuckled. “More trouble than they’re worth.” “Oh, stop,” Mom teased.

‌“Please don’t tell me anything about Kile! Ick!” Josie protested. Her mother swatted her leg.

“I need an update, too!” Aunt May insisted. “I missed a lot. I saw there was a fight!”

“There was.” I rolled my eyes, remembering. “The truth is, I’m still getting to know most of them,” I admitted. “There are a few standouts, but things change from day to day, so it’s hard to measure who might be better than anyone else.”

“Measure?” Camille sounded sad. “There is no measure. Isn’t there one person who fills your heart and takes up all your thoughts?”

As she said it, a name popped into my head. And I was so surprised that anyone came to mind at all that I didn’t have time to absorb exactly who it was.

I forced myself to concentrate on the conversation. “I guess I’m just not as romantically inclined as some people.”

“Obviously,” Josie muttered under her breath.

Either Camille didn’t hear her or she dismissed it. “I believe you will find a wonderful husband. I cannot wait to see!”

The conversation drifted away, and I listened quietly. I wasn’t sure if I needed to stay in the room all day or if I was supposed to go work with Dad. It seemed like I’d been doing everything wrong lately, and I didn’t want to add to my running list of mistakes.

‌And I liked girl talk, but I needed a little break. I excused myself and made my way into the hall, not sure of where I would go. Fifteen minutes. I promised myself after that I’d go back and be vibrant and engaging.

By pure luck I caught Hale on his way out to the gardens, holding a tray with carafes of water on it. He saw me and broke into a giant smile.

“Where are you off to?” he asked.

“Nowhere really. Taking a break from the Women’s Room.”

“Some of the guys are playing baseball outside, if you want to come.”

I went over to the window and, sure enough, maybe eight of the boys were out there tossing a ball.

“Where did they even get that stuff?” “Osten.”

Of course. Osten had everything. I watched the boys roll up their pant legs and slide off their dress shoes, pushing one another jovially.

“I’ve never played baseball,” I admitted.

“All the more reason to join us.” “Can you play?”

“I’m more of a pitcher than a hitter, but I do all right. And I’ll teach you.” Hale’s face was so genuine, I really believed he’d take care of me out there.

“Okay. But I’ll probably be rotten.”

“Since when are you rotten at anything?” he said, leading us out the doorway.

‌Kile was there, as were Apsel, Tavish, and Harrison. Alex was there, too, and I hated to admit that I’d been very tempted to send him back to Calgary ever since Milla blabbed to the papers. I was still considering it.

Henri was stretching next to Linde, so I instinctively looked for Erik. He was there, sitting on one of the stone benches.

“Your Highness!” Edwin called, getting my attention. “Are you here to watch?”

“No, sir. I’m here to play.”

Several of the boys clapped or cheered, though I seriously doubted any of them considered me a positive addition.

“Okay, okay,” I said loudly, raising my arms. “Just keep in mind that I need to be back inside in a few minutes, and I’ve never played before. At all. But I thought I’d give it a quick go before I get to work again.”

“You’ve got this!” Tavish assured me. “Here, give me your shoes. I’ll put them by mine.”

I slipped off my heels and placed them in his hands. “Ugh, these are heavy. How do you lift your feet?” “Strong calves?”

He laughed and carried my shoes to the side. “All right, Eadlyn’s up first then,” Kile insisted.

I had a general understanding of how the game worked. Three outs, four bases. What I was lost on were the mechanics.

Hale was standing out in the middle of the diamond, practicing his pitches with Apsel. Raoul, who was going to be catching, came up behind me.

‌“Here’s what you need to do,” he said. He had a thick Hispanic accent, but his instructions were nice and clear. “You grab the bat here and here.” He demonstrated, clutching the bat firmly toward the bottom. “Legs apart, and keep your back foot dug into the grass, okay?”


“Just watch the ball.”

“Watch the ball . . . all right.”

Raoul passed me the bat, which weighed much more than I expected. “Good luck.”


I stood at the makeshift base, trying to do everything Raoul had told me to. I supposed if Hale was pitching, then he and I were on different teams. All the same, he was grinning when he saw me in my stance.

“It’ll come in slow, okay?” I nodded.

He threw the ball, and I swung well above it. The same thing happened the second time. I wasn’t sure what happened with the third, but I ended up spinning around.

Hale laughed and so did Raoul, and while I typically would have felt embarrassed, this didn’t seem too bad.

“Eadlyn! Eadlyn!”

I recognized my mother’s voice instantly, and I faced the open windows of the Women’s Room. Everyone was there, and I waited for her to order me back inside.

“Get them!” she yelled. “Hit it!”

Aunt May raised her arms in the air. “Go, Eady!”

‌The rest of the girls joined in, shouting and clapping. I laughed and turned back to Hale. He gave me a nod. I returned it, gripping the bat.

I finally connected with the ball, sending it low and to the left. I shrieked, dropped the bat so I could pick up my dress, and bolted to the first base.

“Go, Eady, go!” Kile screamed.

I saw Henri chasing the ball, so I headed to the second base, watching him the whole time. I wasn’t going to make it. Impulsively I lunged, falling into the base.

I beat him!

Everyone erupted. It wasn’t even still my turn, and it wasn’t like I’d won, but it felt huge. Suddenly, Edwin lifted me up off the ground and hugged me, swinging me around.

Moments later, Mom and Josie and all the other ladies were outside, slipping off their shoes and demanding a turn.

Someone alerted Dad and my brothers to the game, and Kaden showed everyone what a superior athlete he was. Mom and Dad stood off to the side, arms around each other. The Selected boys patted one another on the back, and Ahren snuck away with Camille, kissing her every step of the way.

“Go, Henri!” I yelled when he came up to bat. Erik sneaked up beside me and joined in.

We were both a little too dignified to jump around, but we pumped our fists in the air.

“Isn’t this great?” I said. “I love that he can just play without worrying

about words.”

“Me, too,” Erik agreed. “And I can’t believe you hit that ball!”

‌I laughed. “I know! It was completely worth getting my dress dirty for.” “Agreed. Is there anything you can’t do?” he teased.

“Plenty,” I said, soberly thinking over my many faults. “Like what?”

“Umm . . . speak Finnish?”

He laughed. “Okay. So one thing. That’s forgivable.” “What about you?”

Erik looked around. “I couldn’t run a country.”

I waved my hand. “Trust me, if I can learn to do it, anybody could.” Mom rushed up, embracing me. “This was a great idea.”

“The boys did it,” I explained. “I happened to be in the right place to get an invitation.”

I looked past her, watching Dad walk up to the plate. “Go, Daddy, go!”

He lifted his arm, pointing into the distance, and Mom shook her head. “Not gonna happen,” she mumbled.

As she guessed, he completely struck out. We clapped for him anyway, celebrating as the game continued on, with no one keeping score.

For just one moment we were happy. My family and friends swarmed around me, laughing and clapping and enjoying the sun. Mom wrapped me up in another hug, kissing my head and telling me how proud she was of my hit

‌—though I didn’t even try again the whole time. Osten ran in circles, disrupting things and making everyone laugh. Josie had stolen one of the boys’ dress shirts and was wearing it open over her dress, looking silly and completely delighted.

It was a bubble of pure joy.

There were no cameras around to capture it, no reporters to tell the world about it. And for some reason, that made it so much better.

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