The Crown (The Selection #5) - Kiera Cass Page 0,1

of my mood. “That she is.”

“Two minutes!” the floor director called. I walked onto the carpeted set, smoothing out my gown and touching my hair. The studio was colder than usual, even under the lights, and goose bumps prickled at my skin as I took my place behind the lone podium.

Gavril, slightly dressed down but still very polished, gave me a sympathetic smile as he approached. “Are you sure you want to do this? I’m happy to deliver the news for you.”

“Thank you, but I think I have to do it on my own.”

“All right then. How’s she holding up?”

“Okay as of an hour ago. The doctors are keeping her asleep so she can heal, but she looks so battered.” I closed my eyes for a moment, calming myself. “Sorry. This has me a bit on edge. But at least I’m managing better than Dad.”

He shook his head. “I can’t imagine anyone taking this worse than him. His whole world has hung on her since they met.”

I thought back to last night, to the wall of photos in their room, and I thumbed through all the details they’d only recently divulged about how they got together. I still couldn’t see any rhyme or reason to fighting through countless obstacles for love only to have it leave you so powerless in the end.

“You were there, Gavril. You saw their Selection.” I swallowed, still unsure. “Does it really work? How?”

He shrugged. “Yours is the third I’ve seen, and I can’t tell you how it works, how a lottery can bring in a soul mate. Let me say this: Your grandfather was not exactly a man I admired, but he treated his queen as if she was the most important person to walk the planet. Where he was harsh with others, he was generous with her. She got the best of him, which is more than I can say for … Well, he found the right woman.”

I squinted, curious about what he was omitting. I knew Grandpa had been a strict ruler, but come to think of it, that was the only way I knew him. Dad didn’t talk about him much as a husband or father, and I’d always been much more interested in hearing about Grandma.

“And your dad? I don’t think he had a clue what he was looking for. Honestly, I don’t think your mother did either. But she was his match in every way. Everyone around them could see it long before they did.”

“Really?” I asked. “They didn’t know?”

He made a face. “Truthfully, it was more that she didn’t know.” He gave me a pointed look. “A family trait, it seems.”

“Gavril, you’re one of the few people I can confess this to. It’s not that I don’t know what I’m looking for. It’s that I wasn’t ready to look.”

“Ah. I wondered.”

“But now I’m here.”

“And on your own, I’m afraid. If you choose to go through with this—and after yesterday, no one would blame you if you didn’t—only you can make such an important choice.”

I nodded. “I know. Which is why this is so scary.”

“Ten seconds,” the floor director called.

Gavril patted my shoulder. “I’m here in whatever way I can be, Your Highness.”

“Thank you.”

I squared my shoulders in front of the camera, trying to look calm as the light began glowing red.

“Good morning, people of Illéa. I, Princess Eadlyn Schreave, am here to address some recent events that have taken place in the royal family. I shall deliver the good news first.” I tried to smile, really I did, but all I could think of was how abandoned I felt.

“My beloved brother, Prince Ahren Schreave, has married Princess Camille de Sauveterre of France. Though the timing of their wedding was a bit of a surprise, it in no way lessens our joy for the happy couple. I hope you will join me in wishing them both the happiest of marriages.”

I paused. You can do this, Eadlyn.

“In sadder news, last night, my mother, America Schreave, queen of Illéa, suffered a very serious heart attack.”

I paused. The words felt like they had created a dam in my throat, making it harder and harder to speak.

“She is in critical condition and is under constant medical supervision. Please pr—”

I brought my hand to my mouth. I was going to cry. I was going to lose it on national television, and on top of everything Ahren had said about how people felt about me, appearing weak was the last thing I wanted.

I looked down. Mom