Chapter no 25

The Selection (The Selection, #1)

FELT A NUDGE ON my arm. It was dark and either very late or very early. For a fraction of a second, I thought that there’d been yet another attack. Then I knew I was wrong because of the single word used to wake me.


My back was to Aspen, and I took a moment to steady myself before I faced him. In my head, I knew that there were things that needed to be set right between us. I hoped my heart would let me say them.

I rolled over and caught Aspen’s bright green eyes and knew this would be difficult.

Then I noticed that he’d left the door to my room open. “Aspen, are you crazy?” I whispered. “Close the door.”

“No, I’ve thought this out. With the door open, I can tell anyone who comes by that I heard a noise and was checking on you, which is my job. No one would suspect a thing.”

It was simple and brilliant. I nodded my head in understanding. “Okay.”

I turned on the small lamp on my bedside table to make it clear to any passersby that we weren’t hiding anything. I noticed that the clock said it was past three in the morning.

Aspen was obviously pleased with himself. His smile, the same one that used to greet me in the tree house, was wide.

“You kept it,” he said. “Huh?”

Aspen pointed down to my bedside table, where the jar sat with its lone penny. “Yeah,” I said. “I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it.”

His expression grew more and more hopeful. He turned to look at the door, as if checking quickly that no one was there. Then he bent down to kiss me.

“No,” I said quietly, pulling away. “You can’t do that.”

The look in his eyes warred between confusion and sadness, and I feared that everything I was about to say was only going to make things worse.

“Did I do something wrong?”

“No,” I said adamantly. “You’ve been wonderful. I’ve been so happy to see you again and to know that you still love me. It’s changed everything.”

He smiled. “Good. Because I do love you, and I’m planning on making sure you never have a reason to doubt it.”

I squirmed. “Aspen, whatever we were, or are right now, we can’t be that here.” “What do you mean?” he asked, shifting his weight.

“I’m part of the Selection right now. I’m here for Maxon, and I can’t date you or whatever this is while it’s still going on.” I started fidgeting with a bit of my comforter.

He thought a moment. “So were you lying to me? When you said you never stopped loving me?”

“No,” I assured him. “You’ve been in my heart the whole time. You’re the reason things have been going as slow as they are. Maxon likes me, but I can’t let myself really care about him because of you.”

“Well, great,” he said sarcastically. “Glad to know you’d be fine dating him if I wasn’t around.”

Underneath the anger, I could see he was heartbroken, but it wasn’t my fault it turned out this way.

“Aspen?” I asked quietly, getting him to look at me. “When you left me in the tree house, you crushed me.”

“Mer, I said I—”

“Let me finish.” He huffed, then was silent. “You took away my dreams, and the only reason I’m here is because you insisted I sign up.”

He shook his head, irritated at the truth.

“I’ve been trying to put myself back together, and Maxon really cares about me. You mean so much to me, you know you do. But I’m part of this now, and I’d be stupid to not let myself see what happens.”

“So you’re choosing him over me?” he asked miserably. “No, I’m not choosing him or you. I’m choosing me.”

That was the truth at the core of everything. I didn’t know what I wanted yet, and I couldn’t let myself be swayed by what was easy or what someone else thought was right. I had to give myself time to decide what was best for me.

Aspen mulled this over for a moment, still not happy with what I was saying. Finally he smiled.

“You know I’m not giving up, right?” His tone was an obvious challenge, and I grinned in spite of myself. It was true that Aspen was not the type to admit defeat.

“This really isn’t a good place to try to fight for me. Your determination is a dangerous trait here.”

“I’m not afraid of that suit,” he scoffed.

I rolled my eyes, amused at being on this end of the relationship. I’d always been worried about someone stealing Aspen. I felt guilty about how refreshing it was to see him worried about someone stealing me for a change.

“Okay. You said you didn’t love him … but you must like him a little to be willing to stay, right?”

I ducked my head. “I do,” I said with a tiny nod. “He’s more than I ever imagined he was.”

He considered that for a moment, soaking it in.

“I guess that means I’ll have to fight harder than I thought,” he said, heading for the hall. Then he turned and gave me another wink. “Goodnight, Lady America.”

“Goodnight, Officer Leger.”

The door clicked shut, and the sense of peace was overwhelming. Since the Selection had started, I’d been worrying that it was something that was going to ruin my life. But in this moment, I couldn’t think of a time that felt more right.

Too soon, my maids bustled in. Anne pulled back the curtains, and as the light fell on me, it felt like this was truly my first day at the palace.

The Selection was no longer something that was simply happening to me, but something I was actively a part of. I was an Elite. I pulled back the covers and leaped into the morning.


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