25. Dear Riden

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"Wonderful," Anne whispers in awe. With sparkling eyes, she takes in Elisa. After exactly three hours, they've finally drawn ten gowns that'll be ready tomorrow.

Unamused, Elisa looks down at herself. A sigh leaves her lips. Okay, she does look absolutely stunning in this red dress. Her whole back is free of any fabric. It's quite showing-even on the front. It's a long dress. That combined with the heels Elisa is wearing is not a good combination.

"I didn't know she literally meant walking in her footsteps," Elisa murmurs quietly. "I look exactly like her."

The man, who Elisa found out is called Liam, nods. "You should as her heir."

Elisa doesn't react to this. The handler's heir. The next handler. She doesn't accept that. She won't ever rule this place.

"It's a good thing we brought you some dresses already." Anne pats Elisa's shoulder. "You couldn't continue wearing . . . that."

"I like the jacket a lot." Elisa turns her back on the lot, almost falling already. This is going to be a challenge. "I'm keeping it."

"Of course you are," Liam says under his breath, but Elisa catches it. She doesn't react, though.

The stylists say their goodbyes, but Elisa doesn't react much. Her eyes stay on the jacket that's been thrown on the bed. Yes, she adores the jacket. It reminds her of her real home. The home that needs her help.

Vanya needs to be found.

Because of the damn dresses and gowns, Elisa has lost a lot of time. It's already evening. She swings the door open, careful not to move too wildly with her dress and all. Once in the hallway, a content smile lights up her face. There's no guard. Good. Elisa did expect Hazel to be assigned to guard her, to make sure Elisa doesn't leave, but it wouldn't be handy. Next to that, it would make her happier to see his face again, though.

Elisa hurries herself to the door. She needs to find Vanya. But where to start? The commission is huge. It has multiple wings and hidden passages. Vanya could be everywhere.

There's one place to start. The torture chamber. The one next to the handler's office. That's where Elisa got trapped by Five, Mor and the handler. It's probably one of the dumbest choices Elisa is making, but at least-if Vanya is not there-it's one room less.

Not unseen, Elisa continues to head toward the handler's hallway. She catches everyone's eye-obviously. The red, showing dress is making sure of that. It's probably what the handler wanted, too. She has everything figured out.

"There you are." Elisa stops abruptly, sighing. "Miss Brookle! You weren't in your room."

Elisa turns around to face an elderly woman. "I needed some air," Elisa explains. A second sigh follows.

"Right." The woman smiles. "Well, I'm assigned to bring you dinner . . . in your room. Please, come with me."

"I'm not hungry," Elisa says. "I really wish to-"

"Elisa," a familiar voice behind her sounds. "The handler really wants you to go to your room."

"Let me guess. . ." Elisa turns around to face Hazel. "You're commanded to make sure I stay in my room?"

Hazel nods, the kind smile doesn't leave his lips.

"Oh, come on!" Elisa groans loudly. "This is a prison!" An idea comes to her suddenly. "Why does the handler need me in my room? It's like I'm not allowed to wander around."

Uncomfortably, Hazel lays a hand of his on her shoulder, starting to push Elisa to the door. "Your dinner can't get cold." He forces himself to keep smiling. Elisa sees right through it.

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