Chapter 12 - The Balcony

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The only thought echoing through my head was 'How?' How could someone be so cruel? This was so much worse than the stupid coffee incident. This was my work, that I spend countless hours pouring my heart into. And now it was destroyed, all for Sabine's amusement.

Every time I blinked, her smug, satisfied face came into view. I rose to my feet, shaking the image out of my head.

The door opened. I looked up to see Skyler walk in. Her eyes were wide, her face showing emotion for the first time since we met.

She opened her mouth to speak but the only thing that came out was a confused gurgle.

I darted out the door, brushing past her.

"I'll uh, leave you alone then," she said. The door creaked closed.

Good, I thought bitterly. I didn't want anyone's company right now. I needed to be anywhere but here.

I shambled down the hallway, pausing at Sabine's door. Murderous fury bloomed inside me. I grit my teeth and kept walking. I really, really, couldn't be here right now.

I had no idea where I was going, and frankly, I didn't care. I needed to be alone. The logical part of my brain said I needed some fresh air to compose my thoughts and figure out a plan. The irrational, primal part of me wanted to turn around, go back to Sabine's room, and strangle her with that stupid necklace she borrowed from Skyler.

Was that story about Shelby giving her the poem even true? Probably not. She was probably late for dinner because she was busy stealing the poem from my room while I was gone. She probably didn't even want to borrow Skyler's necklace. She just needed an excuse to come into my room, destroy my poem right in front of me, and gloat.

I trudged up staircases and wound through hallways until I was out of breath and needed to stop. Wherever I was now, it was completely deserted. Good.

I pushed open the first door I saw and stepped into an empty room. The first thing I noticed was the acrid smell of fresh paint. A tray filled with white-stained brushes and rollers stood beneath the window, next to two cans of paint. The windows were open, letting the air out. Plastic hung from the wall around them, billowing out like curtains in the breeze. I must be on the unfinished third floor Melanie was talking about.

Whatever this room was supposed to be, it was much grander than the one I was staying in. It had its own balcony. I opened the door, careful to avoid the fresh paint, and stepped outside.

I found myself looking at the back garden and my heart ached. It was even more beautiful at night, illuminated by hundreds of tiny lights. I had a better view of the sea from this height too, and could see the boats docked in the harbor. One of them looked like a yacht. I wondered if it belonged to the king.

"Hey, you're not supposed to be in this part of the building!"

Startled, I turned to see one of the king's guards glowering at me from the doorway. Damn. Before I could come up with an excuse I heard a second set of footsteps.

"Relax, Andrew. I'll handle this." It was the king.

A lump formed in my throat. I slumped back against the railing, thinking I'd rather take my chances with the guard.

Andrew bowed his head and gestured to me. I heard a muttered 'thank you' in response and grit my teeth. Don't come in here, I willed. Please.

The king strode past Andrew and walked inside. Upon seeing me, his usual cool expression contorted into horror. He ran over to me and grabbed me by the shoulders. His blue-green eyes raked over me, causing me to flinch and shrink away.

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