10–In which I remind you to think before you speak

Charlie still didn’t like the look of Celicia but he couldn’t help asking, “So I’m guessing you’re the next in line?”

In the dim light, he could see that Celicia’s face twisted in annoyance and Neola squeezed Charlie’s shoulder. Hard.

“Prince Rhodri is next in line to the throne,” said Neola.

“Ooh, is he hot?” asked Emma.

“He’s nine years old,” answered Celicia with a stony expression.

“That’s weird,” said Charlie. He was about to keep talking when Neola dug her fingernails into his shoulder. He winced but got the message. He was meant to keep quiet. But his thoughts were racing ahead. If Celicia was the princess, she was obviously the king’s daughter yet she wasn’t the next in line. As he was contemplating this, there was a moment of awkward silence which was finally broken by Celicia.

“Why did you bring them here?” This time, she spoke in a hostile tone as if she didn’t like the look of the two.

“Emma is looking for her brother and Charlie, well, Charlie just needed a break from home.”

“Neola, you can’t just bring in random children whenever the hell you want to! They’re not your pets. I can’t believe you’d do something like this especially with the situation we’re in right now. They’re not welcome on Felicity.”

“They’re right here,” interrupted Emma. “And one of them needs to pee.”

Celicia ignored her.

“Any more news from the other Defenders?” asked Neola, changing the subject.

“By ‘other Defenders’, do you mean Jebel?” retorted Celicia, a smile threatening to slip out from her stern expression.

“Why? Is he hot?” Emma crossed her arms.

Why, yes he was, but I wasn’t there at that precise moment to tell her that.

Neola’s face, I’m pleased to say, turned a deep shade of purple. “No, I meant everyone but him—he’s not worth my attention.” (He so was.)

“You’re hopeless,” replied Celicia. She curled her lip and narrowed her eyes. “There are reports of missing children circulating all around the globe. It’s terrible and—”

“One of them was actually about to get young Charlie here.”

“Ah. Well, you made their job easier, didn’t you? By kidnaping him and the girl?”

“I didn’t kidnap them! They wanted to come. Trust me, I did my best to shun them away, but did they listen? I think the answer to that is fairly obvious.” Neola was breathless as she finished saying this.

“Honestly, you’re hopeless.”

Contrary to Charlie’s feelings, Emma actually liked Celicia. She seemed practical and confident and smart. As she looked up at the tall princess with her long gold and blue dress sweeping behind, she was once more in awe. Standing in front of her was someone she could call a role model.

“Celicia,” said Neola. She looked a bit uncomfortable but continued nevertheless. “Can you provide some rooms for these two?”

“So you didn’t think anything through?”

“Shut up and mock me later.”

“That’s no way to speak to a princess.”

“But to a friend, it is.”

Celicia sighed exasperatedly. “Why can’t they stay with you?”

“Have you seen my house? It’s minute!”

Celicia rolled her eyes. “Fine,” she said grudgingly. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Take your time, I’ll bring them over in the evening.” Neola quickly added, “If you don’t mind that is.”

Celicia looked like yes, she did mind but she simply nodded and said, “I’ll get something organised.”

“Thank you, you’re the best!” Neola squeezed Celicia’s hand. In a low whisper, she asked, “Can you tell me anything that happened? I leave for one month and I miss everything!”

“Not right now,” was all that Celicia said, her eyes darting to Charlie and Emma who were staring at them with interest, trying to catch every word of their conversation.

“I’ll leave first, then you follow nine and a half minutes after,” said Neola.

“Why not ten?”

“Because you’ve just wasted thirty seconds asking me that question,” replied Neola cheerfully. She smiled at Celicia and pulled the hidden door open. Gesturing to Charlie and Emma, she went through the door and out of the small, cramped room. The last glimpse Charlie got of Celicia were her caramel eyes glimmering dangerously.


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