WISTERIA WAS dead. The papers ignored her disappearance although there were reports that Prince Mercury was seen alone more frequently now. There were rumors that he was looking for a new Orlin. They were saying that girls from outside Coral City were never reliable as Orlins. Now, poor Prince Mercury would have to attend another ball to mend his broken heart.
Vivienne hid in her room for days after the ball. She couldn’t bring herself to speak to Calbert about what she had seen Blake do or that she suspected that his princeship was plotting her death. More beautiful dresses showed up in large ribboned boxes from the Pearl Tower. Vivienne left them to pile up beside her door. All she could think of was the swirling leaves in the Thorne Estate gardens. There was a memory that lingered in her mind. It was many years ago, it was a special day, her father was supposed to take her and her sister to the river to hike through the autumn forest. Blake had told her that there were bears living in the forest and they would pick their teeth with her bones. It was only many years later that she realized Blake had said that because he was jealous. He wasn’t allowed to leave the estate grounds.
Janun and her, they waited all day but their father never came. He finally showed up long after the sun had gone down and their mother had dinner on the table. He came into the house sheepishly hunched over in his dusty old moth-eaten trench coat. He couldn’t even look them in the eye as he stamped the mud off his shoes.
“He burned three copies of his history books before I got him to sit and do his arithmetic,” her father had cheerfully announced as he sat down to eat. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard!”
“It must be comforting for the girls to know that you’re at least attempting to father somebody,” their mother had snapped back. “Or did you completely forget what you promised them, again?” Their mother slammed a spoonful of soup into her father’s bowel and stormed back into the kitchen. He slowly sipped on his soup for an eternity before he had the guts to face her.
“I’m doing this for you, you know,” he finally told her. “I put up with that boy for you. One day, when you grow up, you will belong here. They’ll accept you as one of them. You’ll see, one day.”
“Vivienne!” her mother called from the kitchen. She stood up and gave her father the cold shoulder as her mother had instructed her earlier that evening. As she walked into the kitchen to help her mother with the dishes her mother squeezed her shoulder. “He’s an idiot if he thinks they’ll ever let us join them. You can’t serve them, Vivienne. You have to outsmart them.”
It took her three days of moping in her room to finally realize that she had known all along that she couldn’t trust Blake Thorne. Maybe it was because his promises were always so seductive and yet always so empty.
She woke up one morning to see Calbert raking leaves on the lawn under her window. Sallen was sitting on the porch with Jaker and they were sharing cookies. Vivienne smiled despite herself. They made a fine picture. Vivienne suspected Sallen was happy here and there was no reason to get Sallen involved in what she was plotting now.
The only one who could help her now was the very person she came here to save. Allison.
Vivienne picked up her phone and carefully punched in the number for the royal palace. She brought the phone up to her ear as an security operator came on the line.
“Yes, I need to speak urgently with Lady Maglania. Tell her it’s Vivienne Ornelias”
“Right away,” the operator promised her. The phone rang twice and a familiar voice came on the line.
“Vivienne?” It still sounded like her, even she sounded more regal now, more unearthly.
“Allison?” Vivienne asked.
“Yes, it’s me,” the voice said and suddenly changed. Allison was back. She cleared her throat as though Lady Maglania’s soul haunting her body was just a bad cold. “What’s up?”
“Prince Mars is a murderer and I think he was working with the demon-woman,” Vivienne whispered. “I think he was trying to meet with the demon-woman at the party.”
“I see, that sounds serious indeed. You’re going to help me?” Allison asked.
“I’ll do more than that. I’ll kill him myself.” Vivienne watched a couple of desiccated leaves drift by her window on the wind. It gave her courage. Blake had taken a lot from her, she wasn’t going to let him take her life as well. “But I want something in return. I want to go home and I want you to promise that Coral City will never bother me again.”
“That’s not a problem.” Allison paused. “But he’ll always have his claws in you as long you’re bond to him. Let me help you break the bond then you’re free to leave this nightmare.”
Vivienne closed her eyes and leaned her forehead against the cold windowpane. He destroyed her life once, now it was her turn to return the favor.
“Okay,” Vivienne said. “What do I need to do break the bond?”
Finally, Allison spoke. Her voice was deeper now, it was her other personality.
“Thank you, dear. You are doing the right thing.”
“He’s coming for me next. I’ll help you trap him.”
“And I suppose you’re going to ask me to spare his life in return for your help,” Lady Maglania asked.
“No, not his life,” Vivianne replied.
“Then a swift death?” Lady Maglania continued. She almost sounded smug. Vivianne could imagine her taking pleasure in plotting out a long drawn out death.
“I want you to let Allison go home too,” Vivienne said. “And in return I’ll hand you Blake. For you to do whatever you will.”