Broken Queen

Page 6

“I want out!”
“That can’t happen, and you know it.”
She shakes her head, the whites of her eyes growing pink as they fill with tears she is quick to wipe away.
“Do we need to call a doctor in, Vittoria?” I ask, changing the subject.
I glance at Amadeo, then turn back to her. “Did they… hurt you? Touch you?”
She stares up at me, all wide eyes and innocence. And fuck. I don’t want to feel anything for her but hate. I try to tell myself it’s pity, but I know better. Something inside me wants to protect her. A thing that feels she’s mine to protect.
I stand by what I said to Amadeo last night. She is strong—a survivor—and something dark made her that. I know it in my gut. And I’m guessing that missing year Amadeo mentioned is it.
When she’s quiet longer than I like, I feel my muscles tighten. Feel a rage build inside me.
“Did they touch you?” I say through my teeth.
She shakes her head and hugs her knees, pressing her eyes into them I assume to stop the inevitable tears.
“Are you sure?” Amadeo asks, clearly confused by how she answered. “You understand it’s not your fault—”
“I’m not fucking stupid,” she snaps furiously. “I know it’s not my fault. But they didn’t rape me. They didn’t get the chance, so I guess I have you both to thank for that. Oh wait, you put me in a situation where they could get to me in the first place, so maybe not.”
I know she’s scared. What happened has terrified her more than she’ll ever admit to us or maybe even to herself. And she’s right—we don’t deserve her gratitude.
She looks back and forth between us. “Where are they?”
“You don’t have to worry about them. We’ll take care of them.”
“They’re your soldiers.”
“That’s complicated.”
“Complicated how?”
“Our uncle has men who are still loyal to him,” I tell her.
She studies me, then Amadeo but doesn’t ask any questions.
“They won’t hurt you again. You don’t have to worry about them,” Amadeo says.
“How can you be sure?” she asks us.
“I’m sure because they will be executed this morning,” I answer her.
For a moment, she seems surprised by this. Or perhaps it’s the violence of what is to come. I don’t know. This is our world. I need to remember it’s not hers. Even if it was her father’s and her brother’s, she has been shielded from it.
She searches my eyes, a line forming between her eyebrows.
“For fuck’s sake, please tell me it’s not pity you feel for them,” I say.
“Oh no, it’s not pity,” she says, looking determined. Any vulnerability is gone, and a strange, almost unhinged sheen comes over her eyes. “I want to be there.”
Amadeo and I glance at each other. He has an eyebrow raised, and I’m sure my expression matches his.
“I mean it,” she says, her voice cold. “I want to be there. I have a right.”