Chapter no 9

The Heir (The Selection, 4)

WHEN THEY STARTED POURING IN, I fled to my room, sketching in the sunlight on my balcony. Too many boisterous laughs and overly enthusiastic greetings. I wondered how long that camaraderie would last. This was a competition, after all. I mentally added finding ways to pit them against one another to my to-do list.

“I think we should put my hair up, Neena. I want to look mature today.” “Excellent choice, my lady.” She scrubbed at my nails. “Any thoughts on

a dress?”

“I’m thinking evening gown. Black would do nicely.” She chuckled. “Looking to scare them?”

I couldn’t hold back my sly smile. “Only a little.”

‌We giggled together, and I was glad to have her with me. I was going to need her soothing words and calming touches over the next few weeks.

After my hair was dry, we braided and knotted it up like a crown, which only made my tiara look better. I found the black dress I’d worn for a New Year’s Eve party last year. It was covered in lace and fitted to the knee before it flared out to the floor. An oval of skin was exposed across my back, and the tiny butterfly sleeves set low across my shoulders. I had to admit it looked even more beautiful in the sun than it did under candles.

My clock struck one, and I made my way downstairs. We had converted one of the libraries on the fourth floor into a Men’s Parlor so the Selected could gather and relax during their time in the palace. It was about the same size as the Women’s Room and had plenty of places to sit, lots of books, and two televisions.

I was heading to that area of the palace now. We had decided that the suitors would be brought out one at a time to greet me and then escorted to the Men’s Parlor to get to know one another.

I saw a cluster of people down the hallway, including my parents and General Leger, and made my way toward them, trying not to let my nerves show. Dad looked stunned and Mom covered her mouth as I approached.

“Eadlyn . . . you seem so grown up.” She sighed as she touched my cheek and shoulder and hair, not fixing anything, just checking.

“Probably because I am.”

‌She nodded to herself, tears in her eyes. “You look the part. I never really

thought I passed for a queen, but you . . . wholly perfect.”

“Stop it, Mom. You’re completely adored. You and Dad brought peace to the country. I haven’t done anything.”

She placed a finger under my chin. “Not yet. But you’re too determined to accomplish nothing.”

Before I could respond, Dad approached us. “Ready?”

“Yes,” I answered, steadying myself. That wasn’t the pep talk I’d been envisioning. “I don’t intend to eliminate anyone just yet. I figure everyone deserves at least a day.”

Dad smiled. “I think that’s wise.”

I took a breath. “All right, then. Let’s begin.” “Do you want us to stay or go?” Mom asked. I considered. “Go. For now, anyway.”

“As you wish,” Dad said. “General Leger and a few guards will be nearby.

If you need anything, simply ask. We want you to have a wonderful day.” “Thank you, Daddy.”

“No,” he said, embracing me, “thank you.”

He pulled away and offered his arm to Mom. They walked off, and I felt like I could see their happiness glowing simply in the way they moved.

“Your Highness,” General Leger said gently. I turned to see his smiling face. “Nervous?”

I shook my head slightly, almost convincing myself. “Bring the first one out.”

‌He nodded before making eye contact with a butler down the hall. A boy walked out of one of the libraries, straightening his cuff links as he approached. He was lean and a little on the short side, but he had a pleasant enough face.

He stopped in front of me, bowing. “Fox Wesley, Your Highness.” I tilted my head in greeting. “A pleasure.”

He took in a breath. “You are so beautiful.”

“So I’ve been told. You can go now.” I swept my arm across my body, pointing to the Men’s Parlor.

Fox furrowed his eyebrows before giving me another bow and leaving. The next boy was in front of me, tipping his head to greet me.

“Hale Garner, Your Highness.” “Welcome, sir.”

“Thank you so much for letting us into your home. I hope to prove myself worthy of your hand more and more each day.”

I cocked my head curiously. “Really? And how will you do that today?” He smiled. “Well, today I would let you know I come from an excellent

family. My father used to be a Two.” “Is that all?”

Undeterred, he went on. “I think it’s pretty impressive.”

“Not as impressive as having a father who used to be a One.” His face faltered.

“You may go.”

‌He bowed and started to walk away. After a few steps he looked back. “I’m sorry to have offended you, Your Highness.”

And his face was so sad that I nearly told him he hadn’t. But that wouldn’t fall in line with my plan for the day.

A parade of endlessly unmemorable boys crossed my path. A little past the halfway point, Kile came through the line, stopping in front of me. For once his hair was styled in such a way that I could actually see his eyes.

“Your Highness,” he greeted.

“It’s ‘Royal Pain in the Ass’ to you, sir.” He chuckled.

“So, how have they been treating you? Your mom says the papers spilled that you lived at the palace.”

He shook his head in shock. “I thought that it would be an immediate invitation to be pummeled by a bunch of jealous meatheads, but it turns out, most of them see me as an asset.”


“They assume I know everything about you already. I’ve been bombarded with questions all morning.”

“And what are you telling them, exactly?”

He smirked, his smile slightly crooked. “What a pleasure you are, of course.”

“Right.” I rolled my eyes, not believing him for a second. “You can go ahead—”

“Listen, I want to tell you I’m sorry again. For calling you bratty.” I shrugged. “You were upset.”

‌He nodded, accepting that excuse. “Still, it’s unfair all the same. I mean, don’t get me wrong, you are exceedingly spoiled.” He shook his head. “But you’re tough because you have to be. You’re going to be queen, and while I’ve seen things unfold in the palace, I’ve never actually had the weight of your work on me. It’s not fair for me to judge.”

I sighed. The polite thing would be to thank him. So, fine, I would be polite. “Thank you.”


There was a long pause.

“Umm, the Men’s Parlor is that way,” I said, pointing. “Right. See you later, I guess.”

I smiled to myself, noticing as he left that he held a notebook in the hand he’d kept behind his back. Kile looked better than usual thanks to the mandatory makeover, but he was still an annoying little bookworm.

It was clear that the gentleman after him was anything but.

His caramel-colored hair was brushed back, and he walked with his hands in his pockets, as if he’d strolled down these halls before. His demeanor actually threw me for a second. Was he here to meet me, or was I here to meet him?

“Your Majesty,” he greeted silkily as he sank into a bow. “Highness,” I corrected.

“No, no. It’s just Ean.”

He cocked one cheek up into a smile. “That was awful,” I said with a laugh.

“It was a risk I had to take. There are thirty-four other guys here. How else was I supposed to get you to remember me?”

‌His gaze was intent, and if I hadn’t dealt with so many politicians in my life, I might have been charmed.

“Very nice to meet you, sir.”

“And you, Your Highness. Hope to see you soon.”

He was followed by a boy with a drawl so thick I had to really focus to catch his words. Another asked when he was going to be paid. There was one who was sweating so much I had to call over a butler to give me a towel for my hand once he left, and the one after him blatantly stared at my chest for the entirety of our meeting. It was an ongoing pageant of disasters.

General Leger came to my side. “In case you’ve lost count, this is the last one.”

I threw back my head in relief. “Thank. Goodness!”

“I don’t think your parents will want to ask you for a follow-up, but you should go to them when you’re done.”

I gave him a look. “If you insist.”

He chuckled. “Go easy on them. Your father has a lot to deal with right now.”

He’s got a lot to deal with? Did you see that one guy sweat?!”

“Can you blame him? You’re the princess. You have the capacity to sentence him to death, if you wanted.”

General Leger had these sparkling green eyes that shimmered with mischief, one of those men who grew even more handsome as he aged. I knew it for a fact because Miss Lucy once showed me a picture of their

‌wedding day, and he seriously only got better looking. Sometimes, if he was tired or if the weather was bad, he walked with a limp, but it never slowed him. Maybe it was because I knew how much Miss Lucy loved him, but he always seemed like a safe place. If I hadn’t been nervous about him siding with Mom and Dad, I would have asked for his advice on how to get these boys to plead to go home. Something in his eyes made me think he’d know exactly how to do it.

“A few of them make me uneasy,” I confessed. The smooth words, the leering eyes. Even though I grew up knowing I was special, I didn’t like being looked at as a prize.

His expression grew sympathetic. “It’s a strange situation, I know. But you never have to be alone with anyone you don’t like, you’re free to dismiss someone for nothing more than a feeling, and even the dumbest of them wouldn’t be stupid enough to hurt you,” he promised. “Trust me; if someone did, I’d make sure they never walked again.”

He gave me a wink before moving away and signaling for the final contestant to be brought out.

I was a bit confused when it wasn’t one person but two. The first was dressed in a crisp suit, but the second wore only a button-up shirt. The slightly drabber one walked a few steps behind the other, his eyes trained on the floor. The first was nothing but smiles, and it looked like someone had tried to tame his hair and failed.

“Hello, Highness,” he greeted, his voice thick with an accent I couldn’t identify. “How are you?”

Confused but disarmed by his incredibly warm smile, I answered, “I’m well. It’s been a long day. I’m sure it has been for you, too.”

‌Behind him, the other boy leaned forward and whispered something in garbled words I couldn’t understand.

The first nodded. “Oh, yes, yes, but . . . eets nice to meeting you.” He used his hands as he spoke, trying to get the words across with his gestures.

I leaned in, not understanding, and somehow hoping a closer proximity would clear up his accent. “Excuse me?”

The boy behind him spoke up. “He says it’s a pleasure to meet you.” I squinted, still confused.

“My name ees Henri.” He bowed in greeting, and I could see in his face that he meant to do this earlier and forgot.

I didn’t want to be rude, so I nodded my head in acknowledgment. “Hello, Henri.”

He lit up at the sound of his name, and he stood there, looking back and forth between the gentleman behind him and me.

“I can’t help but notice your accent,” I remarked in what I hoped was a friendly tone. “Where do you come from?”

“Umm, Swend—?” he began, but turned to the guest with him.

He nodded, carrying on in Henri’s place. “Sir Henri was born in Swendway, so he has a very strong Finnish accent.”

“Oh,” I replied. “And does he speak much English?”

Henri piped up. “English, no, no.” He didn’t seem embarrassed though.

Instead he laughed it off.

“How are we supposed to get to know each other?”

The translator turned to Henri. “Miten saat tuntemaan toisensa?”

‌Henri pointed to the translator, who answered, “Through me, it seems.” “Okay. Well. Umm.” I wasn’t prepared for this. Was it rude for me to

dismiss him? Interacting with these people one-on-one was going to be awkward enough. I wasn’t prepared for a third person.

In that instant Henri’s application popped back into my mind. That was why some of the words were spelled wrong. He was guessing at them.

“Thank you. It’s very nice to meet you, too, Henri.”

He smiled at his name, and I got the feeling the rest of the words didn’t even matter. I couldn’t send him away.

“The Men’s Parlor is over here.”

Henri bowed as his translator mumbled the instructions, and they walked away together.

“General Leger,” I called, burying my face in my hands. “Yes, Your Highness.”

“Tell Dad I’ll update him in an hour. I need to take a walk.”

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