The Guard
Page 3

 Kiera Cass

  • Background:
  • Text Font:
  • Text Size:
  • Line Height:
  • Line Break Height:
  • Frame:
May left her mother and quickly tucked herself into her father’s side. He wrapped a protective arm around her. “No. But Aspen will check on her.”
I hadn’t said anything of that nature, but we were practically family and he knew that I would. Of course I would.
Mrs. Singer gave me a brief hug. “I can’t tell you what a comfort it is to know you’re here, Aspen. You’re smarter than the rest of the guards combined.”
“Don’t let them hear you say that,” I joked, and she smiled before pulling away.
May rushed over, and I bent down a little so we were on the same level. “Here are some extra hugs. Could you go by my house and give them to my family for me?”
She nodded into my shoulder. I waited for her to let go, but she didn’t. Suddenly she pushed her lips to my ear. “Don’t let anyone hurt her.”
She gripped me tighter, and I did the same, wanting so badly to protect her from everything around her.
May and America were bookends, alike in more ways than either of them could see. But May was softer around the edges. No one sheltered her from the world; she sheltered herself. America had been only a few months older than May was now when we started dating, making a decision most people older than us would never have had the guts to face. But while America was aware of the bad around her, the consequences that could come if things ever went wrong, May practically skipped through life, completely blind to what was worst in the world.
I worried that some of that innocence had been stolen from her today.
She finally loosened her grip, and I stood, holding a hand out to Mr. Singer. He took it and spoke quietly. “I’m glad she has you. It’s like she’s got a piece of home with her.”
My eyes locked on his, and again I was struck with the urge to ask him what he knew. I wondered if, at the very least, he suspected something. Mr. Singer’s gaze was unwavering, and, because I’d been trained, I searched his face for secrets. I could never begin to guess at what he was hiding from me, but I knew without a doubt that there was something there.
“I’ll look after her, sir.”
He smiled. “I know you will. Look after yourself, too. Some would argue this post is even more dangerous than New Asia. We want you to come home safe.”
I nodded. Out of the millions of words in the world, Mr. Singer always seemed to know how to pick the handful that made you feel like you mattered.
“I’ve never been treated so harshly,” someone muttered, rounding the corner. “And at the palace of all places.”
Our heads collectively turned. It sounded like Celeste’s parents weren’t taking the request to leave very well either. Her mother was dragging a large bag, shaking her head in agreement with her husband, flicking her blond hair over her shoulder every few seconds. Part of me wanted to walk over and hand her a pin.
“You there,” Mr. Newsome said to me. “Come and fetch these bags.” He dropped his suitcases on the floor.
Mr. Singer spoke up. “He’s not your servant. He’s here to protect you. You can carry your own bags.”
Mr. Newsome rolled his eyes and turned to his wife. “Can’t believe our baby has to associate with a Five.” He whispered the words, though he obviously intended for all of us to hear.
“I hope she hasn’t picked up any of her sloppy manners. Our girl’s too good for that trash.” Mrs. Newsome flicked her hair again, and I could see where Celeste learned to sharpen those claws of hers. Not that I expected anything more from a Two.
I could hardly look away from Mrs. Newsome’s wickedly happy face, except for the muffled sound next to me. May was crying into her mother’s shirt. As if this day hadn’t been hard enough already.
“Safe trip, Mr. Singer,” I whispered. He nodded to me and escorted his family through the front doors. I could see the cars were waiting already. America was going to hate that she didn’t get to say good-bye.
I walked over to Mr. Newsome. “Don’t let them bother you, sir. Leave your bags right here, and I’ll make sure they’re taken care of.”
“Good lad,” Mr. Newsome said, and patted me on the back before straightening his tie and pulling his wife along with him.
Once they were outside, I walked to the table near the entrance and pulled a pen out of the drawer. There was no chance of me getting away with doing this twice, so I had to decide which one of the Newsomes I hated more at the moment. Right now, it was Mrs. Newsome, if only for May’s sake. I unzipped her bag, stuck the pen inside, and snapped it in half. I got a dot of ink on one hand, but seeing as I had thousands of dollars’ worth of clothes in front of me to wipe it on, the mark was quickly taken care of. I watched as the Newsomes climbed into a car, then threw their bags into the trunk and allowed myself a small smile. But while destroying some of Mrs. Newsome’s clothes was satisfying, I knew it wouldn’t really affect her in the long run. She’d replace them within days. May would have to live with those words in her ears forever.
I held the bowl close to my chest as I lifted forkfuls of eggs and chopped sausage to my mouth, eager to get outdoors. The kitchen was packed with guards and servants, wolfing down meals as they started shifts.
“He was telling her he loved her through the entire thing,” Fry was saying. “I was posted by the platform and could hear it the whole time. Even after she passed out, Woodwork was saying it.”
Two maids hung on his every word, one tilting her head sadly. “How could the prince do that to them? They were in love.”
“Prince Maxon is a good man. He was just obeying the law,” the other maid shot back. “But . . . the whole time?”
Fry nodded.
The second maid shook her head. “No wonder Lady America ran for them.”
I stepped around the large table, moving to the other side of the room.
“She kneed me pretty hard,” Recen shared, wincing a little at the memory. “I couldn’t stop her from jumping; I could barely breathe.”
I smiled to myself, though I felt for the guy.
“That Lady America is pretty damn brave. The king could have put her on the block for something like that.” A younger butler, wide-eyed and enthusiastic, seemed to be taking the whole thing in as entertainment.
I moved again, fearing I’d say or do something stupid if I heard any more. I passed Avery, but he only nodded. The set of his mouth and eyebrows was all I needed to see to know he wasn’t interested in company right now.