I wake up in a strange room and I am not in my silk pajamas. I hesitate an instant before screaming for Neena.
Then I remember.
This is Kile's room, and I fell asleep on him last night, most likely drooling or snoring and embarrassing myself thoroughly. Neena will kill me. I hope she covered for me with Mom at breakfast.
Mom! I need to see her!
Breakfast! The Selection! The boys will be waiting for me!
But—where is Kile? Was I that horrible of a sleeper? We were making out...I was feeling reckless...but he just pressed my cheek to his chest and stroked my hair until I drifted off.
His room is a mess, pencils, papers, models of houses, clothing draped and notes to himself posted here and there. It makes me smile. It's so him.
I stand up and look for my robe, finding it puddled in his desk chair. Then I see a note on his desk in his scrabbly writing.
Something is up. I'm checking it out. Wait for me here.
I want to obsess on what he means by 'yours' and how he decided to write that over other words.
But he's right. Something is off. The castle is quiet and usually I would have been missed by now. Neena would lead them here. It's so late. I've never slept this late in my life.
I peek out the door. Not one guard. Now I know something is up.
I creep to my room and find the door ajar. My heart crawls up my throat but I find enough bravery to step into the room, not even knowing what I'm scared of, just that nothing is right.
My room has been torn apart. Words on the wall, written in my favorite lipstick color:
NEVER OUR QUEEN
Gasping, I sit on my bed. What is this? My tiaras are gone. My desk rifled through, my bed covers tossed around the room, my wardrobe is strewn about, and my closet empty with loose hangers clustered at odd angles down.
Never in my life has such chaos come into the castle. Before my parents married and abolished the castes, there were rebellions. Once even an infiltration of the castle...but now? So close to my reign? After their beloved queen had a heart attack?
Well, I guess no one knows what happened to Mom.
What if they got to Mom? I race down the empty hall, up the south elevator, and through the small ballroom to the medical wing. It's the shortest way I know. I see no one on my path, just more heirlooms smashed, furniture overturned, paintings slashed. A man is stationed at the hospital doors. I stop mid-run.
He's squinting at me, and then running toward me. I turn and race the way I came. He's not in uniform, and I couldn't see his face. What if he's the one who did all this?
He's behind me. Calling my name. So close.
He snags my waist and I almost fall forward on my face, but he draws me up to his chest, so my back is pressing his front.
"Eadlyn, hold on, it's me, Hale."
"Oh my gosh!" I turn and see that yes, it's him. But all his fashionable clothes are gone, and he's in ripped pants of thick material and a dingy button up.
"What happened?" I ask.
"They're all so worried about you. Where were you? They thought the protestors got you. A whole squad is out there right now trying to hunt you down. We have to get inside. Come on," he leads me through the first door where five guards are in uniform standing alert. They rush to me, each one running somewhere to share the news of me being found.
Hale tugs my hand and takes me through two more doors, with more guards after each.
"Everyone came here since your mom can't be moved. The guards tripled up."
"It all just happened, like, an hour ago. Maybe less. We were sure you'd been taken like..."
"Like who?" I say, gripping his hand tightly. "Who?"
But then I see my mother. I race to her side, kneel, and weep into her sheet. She is wan, without make-up, and wires are hooked into her nose and hand.
"Mom," I snuffle." She pats my head. Osten and Kaden step up behind me, trying to hug me and reassure themselves that I am here.
"I'm safe," I say. "And confused." I scan the room: May, Lucy, Marlee, Neena, other familiar family house staff, Erik, Henri, Hale, Ean, the three other Selection boys.
"Where is Dad? General Leger? The rest of the staff and Selection boys?"