The Selection (The Selection 1) - Page 61

I marveled at how different it felt. We’d never had so much space before.

Even with the distraction, I could feel everything else swarming in my head. I was angry with Maxon, angry with Celeste, even angry with Aspen. Hell, I was angry with Illéa. As we kissed on and on, I started crying.

Aspen kissed me through it, and soon some of the tears were his, too.

“I hate you, you know?” I said.

“I know, Mer. I know.”

Mer. When he touched me like that, called me that name, I felt like I was a world away. Upset as I was, Aspen felt like home.

We went on for nearly fifteen minutes before he remembered himself.

“I have to get back, the guard doing rounds will be expecting me.”

“What?”

“There are guards who do rounds at random. I might have twenty minutes, I might have an hour. If it’s a short round, I have less than five minutes.”

“Hurry!” I urged, hopping up with him to help him straighten his hair.

He grabbed his staff, and we ran across the floor together. Before he opened the door, he pulled me in to kiss me again. It felt like pure sunlight was traveling down my veins.

“I can’t believe you’re here,” I said. “How did you end up on the palace guard?”

He shrugged. “Turns out I’m a natural. They fly everyone to this training place in Whites. America, it was covered in snow! Nothing like the flurries we get back home. All the new guards are fed and trained and tested. There are shots, too. Don’t know what’s in them, but I grew really fast. I’m a solid fighter, and I’m smart. I tested the highest in our class.”

I smiled with pride. “Not surprised by that at all.” I kissed him again. Aspen had always been too good to lead the life of a Six.

He opened the door and checked the hallway. It looked empty.

“I have so much to tell you. We need to talk,” I whispered.

“I know. And we will. It’s going to take some time, but I’ll be back. Not tonight. I don’t know when, but soon.” He kissed me again, so hard it almost hurt.

“I missed you,” he whispered into my mouth, and went back to his post.

I walked back to my bed in a daze. I couldn’t believe what I’d just done. Part of me—a very upset part—felt like Maxon deserved this. If he wanted to spare Celeste and humiliate me, then I certainly wouldn’t be a part of the Selection much longer. If she could find a way around the rules, there was nothing to stop me anymore. Problem solved.

Suddenly worn out, I fell asleep in moments.

CHAPTER 23

THE NEXT MORNING, I WOKE feeling a little guilty. Frightened even. Just because I didn’t return Maxon’s ear tug didn’t mean he couldn’t come to my room any time he wanted. We so easily could have been caught. If anyone had any idea what I’d done…

It was treason. And there was only one way the palace dealt with treason.

But another part of me didn’t care. In the hazy moments of waking, I relived every look in Aspen’s eyes, every touch, every kiss. I missed that so badly.

I wished we’d had more time to talk. I really needed to know what Aspen was thinking, though last night had given me some clues. It was just so unbelievable—after trying so hard to not want him—that he might still want me.

It was Saturday, and I was supposed to go to the Women’s Room, but I just couldn’t stand it. I needed to think, and I knew that wouldn’t happen in the endless chatter floating downstairs. When my maids came, I told them I had a headache and would be staying in bed.

They were so helpful, bringing me food and cleaning the room as quietly as possible, that I almost felt bad for lying to them. I had to, though. I couldn’t face the queen and the girls and possibly Maxon while my mind was so solidly fixated on Aspen.

I closed my eyes but did not sleep. I tried to clear up just how I felt. Before I got very far, though, there was a knock at the door. I rolled over, catching Anne’s face as she silently asked if she should answer it. I sat up quickly, straightened my hair, and gave her a nod.

I prayed that it wouldn’t be Maxon—I was afraid he’d be able to read my crimes on my face—but I wasn’t prepared to see Aspen’s face walking through my door. I felt myself sit up taller and hoped my maids didn’t notice.

“Pardon me, miss,” he said to Anne. “I’m Officer Leger. I’m here to speak to Lady America about some security measures.”

“Of course,” she said, smiling brighter than usual and gesturing for Aspen to enter. In the corner I saw Mary nudge Lucy, who let out a tiny giggle.

When he heard the sound, Aspen turned toward them and tipped his hat. “Ladies.”

Lucy ducked her head and Mary’s cheeks looked redder than my hair, but they didn’t answer. Anne, though she also seemed taken by Aspen’s good looks, was put together enough to speak at least.

“Shall we leave, miss?”

I considered this. I didn’t want to seem too obvious, but some privacy would be nice.

“Only for a moment. I’m sure Officer Leger won’t need me for long,” I decided, and they whisked right out of the room.

Once they had disappeared behind the door, Aspen spoke. “You’re wrong, I’m afraid. I’m going to be needing you for a very long time.” He winked at me.

I shook my head. “I still can’t believe you’re here.”

Wasting no time, Aspen took off his hat and sat on the edge of my bed, setting his hands so our fingers just barely touched. “I never thought I’d count the draft as a blessing, but if it gives me the chance to apologize to you, I’ll be forever grateful.”

I was stunned into silence.

Aspen looked deep into my eyes. “Please forgive me, Mer. I was so, so stupid, and I’ve regretted that night in the tree house since the second I climbed down the ladder. I was too stubborn to say anything and then your name got called… I didn’t know what to do.” He stopped for a second. It looked like he had tears in his eyes. Was it possible that Aspen had been crying for me the way I’d been crying for him? “I’m still so in love with you.”

I bit my lip, holding back my tears. I needed to be sure of one thing before I could even think about this.

“What about Brenna?”

His face fell. “What?”

I gave an unsteady breath. “I saw you two together in the square when I was leaving. Is that over?”

Aspen squinted his face in concentration then burst into laughter. He covered his mouth with his hands and fell backward on the bed before popping up and asking, “Is that what you think? Oh, Mer, she fell. She tripped and I caught her.”

Tags: Kiera Cass The Selection Science Fiction
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