VIVIENNE PRAYED that now that the Midnight Masquerade was over, she would finally have a chance to breathe. Her walk back to her room was a blur. Off in the distance, she was vaguely aware of what appeared to be an impromptu party. Cameras were flashing and there were girls laughing in high-pitched voices.
She wasn’t interested in any of that. She was all too eager to lock herself in her room and crawl under her covers. She laid there for a while with her stomach twisted in knots. Then, somehow, she drifted off to sleep. Vivienne was awoken by a rude knocking at her door. She tried to ignore it but it came again.
Vivienne finally sat up and pushed her hair out of her face. The room was pitch dark; she had slept the day away. She hoped it wasn’t one of the Orlins here to remind her that she was late for dinner. She hardly had any appetite at all. Vivienne opened the door a crack and squinted in the bright light.
“Pretty-eyes,” Simon said. “I’ve been knocking for a full five minutes. Are you in a coma or something?”
“I’m sorry,” Vivienne said. “I’m really not hungry...”
“What?” Simon demanded with an angry tap of his foot. “Do you think I care? Who do I look like? Your mom?” He sighed and handed her a cell phone. “Your father is on the line. Don’t ask me how he got a Coral City number or a phone capable of dialing it. You better talk like the wind.”
He tossed the phone at her and Vivienne barely caught it. Her hands were shaking. It was her father! She pressed the glowing screen to her cheek. “Dad?”
“Viv!” an enthusiastic but static-filled voice came on the line. “Are you okay?”
“Vivy,” her father came on the line after wrestling the phone from her sister. “You hang in there! Your mom and I are coming. I might be getting a job offer in the city soon. We could be moving as early as next week. Your sister is dying to see you.”
“More like dying to go shopping,” Vivienne replied, mockingly, before she reminded herself that she was supposed to sound sad and jilted by the illustrious Prince Mars. She might as well go along with the show. Vivienne didn’t want to think about what a person of Blake’s power could do to her if she didn’t. Even if Blake didn’t give the order himself, he was surrounded by people who looked out for his interests. They ruined her family once, they could do it again.
“Dad,” Vivienne finally said. “Don’t worry too much about me. I wasn’t too into the prince anyway. He was snotty, cold, vengeful; he reminded me of someone I used to know.”
“Are you sure, sweetheart?”
“Yup,” Vivienne replied. She reached over to her desk where Blake’s letter was still opened, looking very much like a ghostly leaf. She picked it up with two fingers and allowed it to flutter into a waste basket. “He reminded me of Blake Thorne,” Vivienne finally blurted into the phone.
“Blake Thorne?” her father asked and laughed nervously. “I haven’t heard that name in years. I didn’t know you still remember him.”
“You used to call him the demon child, I remember that.” Vivienne stared with resolve into the darkness. “I bet if Blake had lived he would be charming too, and a good dancer,” Vivienne said. “But he burned me once. I won’t let it happen again.”
Before she could hear his reply, Simon snatched the phone from her and hung up. He smiled widely. “Time’s up, love. Now, it’s time for dinner.”
“You sound like my mom,” Vivienne spat back. She flicked on the light to her room and rang a brush violently through her hair a few times.
“So, Prince Mars isn’t up to your standards is he?” Simon asked as he rocked back on forth on his heels.
“You were eavesdropping!” Vivienne waved her hairbrush in his direction menacingly.
“Of course, this is the Pearl Tower, the walls here might as well be made of paper.” Simon chuckled to himself. “And you might be interested in this piece of gossip as well. Calbert Henton’s cousin, Jaker Henton has offered a bond to your friend Sallen. The two of you might up end being in each other’s company for a while, yet. You might actually have to . . .I don’t know . . . become friends or something, who knows.”
“What?” Vivienne asked as she did a double take to make sure he wasn’t playing a cruel joke on her. “Sallen is going to be the Orlin to Jaker Henton? How did that happen?”
Simon chuckled. “Well, I sure as hell didn’t arrange it. Since you’ve been sleeping like a log all day, you sure as hell didn’t either. So I guess that leaves your dull boyfriend Cow-barf, by process of elimination. Unfortunately, for Sallen, now she owes him a giant meatloaf sandwich for that favor.”
“He’s a nice guy,” Vivienne said, sadly. “I wish -”
“That you weren’t using him?” Simon asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I’m not using him!” Vivienne snapped, while tying the ribbons of a pink and frilly garden dress around her waist. She was counting on most the girls wearing pink so that she could camouflage among them.
“Oh please,” Simon replied and opened the door for her to follow him to the dining room. “Anyone who falls for you must either be autistic or psychotic. I have a feeling this one is the former and the other the latter.”
“Well, better than being a glorified coat rack. How does it feel like carry around your master’s clothes all day?”
Simon winked at her as though they were having a marvelous bonding moment. Vivienne wished she could punch him in the face but she had a feeling she would have a hard time making a clear get-away afterwards seeing as crossing the Anthias sea would require a boat.
“Let me give you a tip, princess,” Simon said. “This may be the most useful tip you’ll get here at the Pearl Tower, seeing as you’ll probably be leaving for your new home in the morning. Don’t. Get. Too. Close to your new friend, Mr. Henton. He’s going to try to do everything to make you love him. He needs you, part of you, your mind. He’s going to feed off of it to keep himself alive. Never forget that. It’s not personal, it’s all just business.”
“And you’re the authority on that?” Vivienne asked. “Separating business and pleasure?”
Simon nodded. “Develop a reputation if you have to. Be my guest. Do what you need to do in order to survive. If only one of you can make it out with their sanity intact, make sure it’s you.”