Summary: Alice deals with the morning after.
Notes: Everything is still terrible. Sorry.
CW: references to sexual assault and violence
New to the series? Catch up here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8,Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19
The following morning, Maxwell arrived at Alice’s door. He knocked, hoping she was already awake.
There was no answer so he tried the handle, cracking the door just a little. “Alice?” he said again. But instead of finding Alice in her bedroom, he saw Drake sitting on the floor, leaning against the closed bathroom door. He was blinking and rubbing his eyes, trying to focus. He looked like he’d barely slept all night. “Drake?” Maxwell asked, confused. “What are you doing here?”
Drake slowly stood up, rubbing his hand over his face. “Something happened last night.”
“What happened? Where’s Alice?”
Drake glanced back at the door before he took a few steps toward Maxwell. “Alice was…attacked last night.”
“What?” Maxwell asked, his face slack with shock. “What do you mean? Who attacked her?”
“Tariq,” Drake said. His fist involuntarily clenched when he said the name but he winced, releasing his fist. Maxwell looked down and saw Drake’s hand was swollen. “He…”
“What’s going on?” Bertrand asked, coming in through the open door to join them. “Drake? What are you doing here? Where’s Alice?”
“Bertrand, something bad happened,” Maxwell said.
“Tariq tried to rape Alice last night,” Drake said. “I heard her scream and got here just in time, but she’s still pretty upset.”
Bertrand was quiet for a moment as he processed the information, his face growing dark and stormy. Then he turned suddenly and started to leave the room.
“Where are you going?” Maxwell asked.
“Where do you think I’m going?” Bertrand yelled, whirling on his little brother. “I’m going to go beat the shit out of him!”
Maxwell stared at him in disbelief. “I’ve…never heard you swear before.”
“Well, this warrants it!” Bertrand shouted.
“Hey, keep it down,” Drake hissed. “Alice is in the bathroom and she might be asleep.”
Bertrand clamped his mouth shut and took a deep, noisy breath through his nose. “Is she okay? Is she hurt?”
“I don’t know,” Drake said. “I mean, she’s not okay, but I don’t know if she has any injuries.”
“HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW?” Bertrand shouted at him.
“Keep your voice down!” Drake snapped back. “And I don’t know. She wanted to be alone in there, so I stayed out here.”
“I’m going to go talk to security and find out how the hell this was allowed to happen,” Bertrand said, starting for the door again.
“Bertrand, wait,” Drake said, catching his arm. “I need to go talk to Bastien anyway; why don’t you guys stay here with Alice? I don’t really want to leave her alone right now. Maybe you can get her to come out.”
“Fine,” Bertrand said, sounding like he was anything but. “But hurry up.”
Drake nodded and left, closing the door behind him.
Inside the bathroom, Alice sat with her back against the closed door. She hadn’t been sleeping, but even if she had, Bertrand certainly would’ve woken her up. Alice wasn’t upset though; more than anything, she was surprised Bertrand has voluntarily said a swear word.
Maxwell’s soft knock on the door echoed through her back.
“Alice?” he asked quietly. “It’s Maxwell and Bertrand. Can we come in?”
Alice wanted to say yes, wanted to reach up and unlock the door, scoot away across the tiles to let them in…but she couldn’t. She felt so tired and immobilized, like the fight last night had drained everything out of her. Everything, that is, that Tariq hadn’t tried to take by force.
“No,” she said quietly, her voice barely loud enough to be heard through the door. “I’m sorry.”
“There’s nothing to apologize for,” Bertrand said quickly. “Are you hurt? Do you want me to get a doctor?”
Alice closed her eyes and rested her head back against the door. The person she wanted more than anything was the one who wouldn’t talk to her. Alice had spent all night staring at her phone, willing him to text or call her. He hadn’t. Alice was surprised to feel fresh tears sliding down over her face; she hadn’t thought there was anything left.
“Can you get Hana for me?” Alice asked, her voice quivering.
“Yes, absolutely, I’ll be right back,” Maxwell said quickly. “Bertrand will stay here.”
Alice nodded even though neither Beaumont could see her. She lay down on the floor, feeling the cool tile against her cheek.
“Alice?” Bertrand’s voice was gentler than she’d ever heard it before. “I…I’m not good at being very emotional,” he said. “But I want you to know that I’m…well, I’m here for you. I know I can’t fix what happened, but…I do care about you, and not just because we’re sponsoring you. You’re like the obnoxious sister Maxwell and I never had.”
Alice almost smiled.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be calling you ‘obnoxious’ right now,” Bertrand added quickly. “I told you I’m not good at this.”
“You’re doing fine,” she said quietly.
“What? Oh,” he said awkwardly. “Thank you.” He paused. “Can I do anything for you?”
“Keep talking so I know you’re there.”
Bastien barely recognized his reflection as he stared into his bathroom mirror. He’d hardly slept and his face looked haggard and hollow. Bastien had forgotten to ice his hands last night and his knuckles were swollen from beating Tariq half to death before throwing him out. No matter how hard he tried to distract himself, his thoughts were plagued with visions of Tariq hurting Alice and there was a physical ache in his gut that he hadn’t been there. Bastien had spent all night reading her last texts over and over again. He wanted so badly to go to her but he believed the king’s threat. No matter how desperately he wanted to see her, he couldn’t put her in danger like that.
A sudden thundering on his door broke Bastien out of his thoughts. He finished buttoning his shirt as he walked to the door.
“Where were you?” an irate Drake demanded as soon as Bastien opened the door. “Did you get my message?”
“Drake,” Bastien said tiredly. “Come in.”
He held the door open for Drake before closing it behind him. “I got your message and I addressed the situation.”
“What do you mean ‘addressed the situation?’” Drake asked, anger still crackling at the edges of his words.
“I mean I took care of it. Tariq is gone.”
“Why didn’t you come to Alice’s room?” Drake demanded.
“Drake, I said I took care of it, and I did,” Bastien said, not willing to discuss it further. “Look, if that’s all, I need you to go so I can finish getting ready. And you look like you could use some sleep.” His eyes flicked down to Drake’s hand. “And some ice.”
“That’s it?” Drake asked.
Drake looked like he wanted to say more but Bastien watched him bite back his words. Drake turned and left, slamming the door shut behind him in frustration. Bastien didn’t blame him; he didn’t know the whole story. No one did. Bastien sat down heavily in a chair, resting his elbows on his knees as he dropped his face into his hands. He closed his eyes and tried to force away the mental images of the night before. Instead, he thought about Alice. He thought about the way her hand felt in his, the sound of her laugh, the way her hair smelled when they lay in bed together, his arms wrapped around her. She always said she felt so safe like that…
After a couple of minutes, Bastien stood up, brusquely rubbing the tears from his eyes. He headed into the bathroom and turned on the faucet, splashing icy water on his face. He looked up at the mirror.
“Pull it together,” he ordered his reflection through gritted teeth. “You have to pull it together.”
There was a light knock on the bathroom door. “Alice? It’s Hana.”
Alice hesitated, still lying on the tile floor, before she finally pushed herself up to stand. Her legs were shaky, but she stayed upright. She reached over and twisted the lock. Alice took a deep breath and finally opened the door, just a little bit. Hana opened it enough to allow herself entry before closing it behind her and locking the door again. Then Hana reached over and gently hugged Alice, who gratefully wrapped her arms around her friend.
“What can I do for you?” Hana asked. Alice shook her head.
“I don’t know.”
“Are you hurt?” Hana asks, pulling back from the hug. Wordlessly, Alice held out her arms. Keeping her face neutral, Hana carefully examined the dark bruises that marred Alice’s fair skin on her wrists and forearms. “Is this everything?”
Alice pulled up the leg of her yoga pants and turned to show Hana the bruises on her calf and ankle. “He had my arms pinned behind my back so I tried to kick him, but I only succeeded in pissing him off so he kicked me.”
“By fighting back, you bought yourself time until Drake was able to get there,” Hana corrected her as she knelt down to get a better look. “What about your heels?”
“Carpet burns from when he dragged me across the floor.”
Hana stood back up. “Is there anything else?” Alice shook her head. “Do you want me to call someone? Maybe one of the guards? The cops?”
“No,” Alice said, tears welling in her eyes again at the thought of Bastien.
Hana hesitated, carefully choosing her words. “You are absolutely entitled to say no, but would it be okay if I took photos of your injuries? I just…want to make sure you have some kind of evidence. If you want it later.”
“Okay,” she said quietly.
Hana was a gentle, careful photographer as she took photos of Alice’s arms and leg and heels. Each flash of Hana’s phone felt like another indignity all over again, but Alice closed her eyes, bracing herself. The pragmatic part of her brain knew this was a good idea. The rest of her wanted to get back into the bathtub and drown under her blanket and pillow.
“Okay, that’s it,” Hana said as she put her phone away. “All done. I know that couldn’t have been easy, and–”
“It’s fine,” Alice said quickly.
“Can I get you anything right now?” Hana asked. “Food? A hug? Something to break?”
Alice allowed herself to smile a little, but it came out looking more like a grimace. “I just want to leave.”
“Okay,” Hana said, nodding. “I’ll go talk to Maxwell and Bertrand. I’ll just be right outside the bathroom if you need me, okay?”
Alice nodded. Hana gave her another hug, holding her close.
“It’ll be okay,” Hana said softly as Alice started crying against her shoulder. “We’ll make it okay.”
When Alice was ready, Hana let go of her and exited the bathroom, closing the door behind her. Alice sat down on the edge of the tub and took a deep breath. She wanted to believe Hana, but she didn’t know if she’d ever feel okay again. Alice glanced down into the tub and saw her phone sitting beside the pillow. She picked it up, trying not to get her hopes up. Even still, she was disappointed when all she saw was a text from Frankie. She dropped the phone back down on the pillow.
As soon as Hana shut the bathroom door behind her, the Beaumont brothers rushed her.
“How is she?” Maxwell asked anxiously.
“Not great,” Hana said. “But I think she’ll be okay eventually. She wants to leave Applewood.
Bertrand nodded. “Absolutely. We’ll skip the country jamboree and head back today. The next event is at our estate, so we’ll just take her there.”
Maxwell turned to him, surprised. “Really?”
Bertrand narrowed his eyes at his little brother. “You disagree?”
“No, not at all,” Maxwell said. “I’m just surprised you’re okay with skipping a suitor-related event.”
“Of course I am,” Bertrand said dismissively. “Some things are more important.”
All three of their heads snapped to attention when they heard the bathroom door open.
“Bertrand, please, you’re making me blush, dude,” Alice joked weakly.
“Please don’t call me ‘dude,’” he said reflexively, then winced. “Sorry, you can…okay, no, please don’t.”
“I’m so glad to see you,” Maxwell said, relief flooding his words. He rushed over to Alice, ready to embrace her, but stopped short when he saw her flinch. “Oh, god, I’m so sorry, I–”
“It’s fine,” Alice interrupted. “Really, I know, I just…can’t right now.”
Bertrand cleared his throat awkwardly. “I’m going to go make car arrangements to take us to Ramsford.”
“I can stay and help Alice pack,” Maxwell said to his brother. “If that’s okay with you, of course,” he added, turning to Alice, who nodded.
“I can stay, too,” Hana offered. Alice shook her head.
“No, I’ll be okay,” Alice said. “You should go to the jamboree thing.”
“I don’t care if I miss the jamboree,” Hana said. “Really.”
“Really, I’ll be fine,” Alice insisted. “But thank you.” Then she turned to look at everyone. “I do have one stipulation though: no one tells Liam.”
“Alice…” Hana said, but Alice held up a hand, cutting her off.
“I’m serious. I don’t want to talk about this anymore and Liam has enough going on right now. Don’t say anything to him.”
Hana, Maxwell, and Bertrand all exchanged uncomfortable glances, but all three reluctantly murmured their agreement.
“Thank you,” Alice said. They all stood there in silence for a moment before Bertrand finally spoke again.
“Okay, I’ll get working on the travel arrangements,” Bertrand said. “I’ll let you know when the car is ready.”
“I’ll have my phone if you need me,” Hana said as she gave Alice’s hand a reassuring squeeze. Then she headed for the door. Bertrand reached it first, opening it for her. He was about to leave himself when he noticed the door didn’t have a lock. He paused, looking at it again to be sure he hadn’t just missed it, but there was definitely no lock on the door. Bertrand frowned, but he shut the door behind him, leaving Maxwell and Alice alone.
“If you want, I can just pack for you and you can just get dressed and relax until it’s time to go,” Maxwell offered. “I’m really good at packing.”
“Okay,” Alice agreed, heading for the wardrobe. She felt like she was moving underwater, like everything was on a four second delay. She pulled a pair of jeans and a fresh shirt from the wardrobe before she headed back into the bathroom, closing and locking the door behind her.
Out in the bedroom, Maxwell stared at the door, wishing he could help her.
Bertrand began searching Applewood Manor. He wasn’t sure if he’d find him or not, but he was too angry and determined to give up. Finally, he found Bastien alone in a hallway.
“Good morning, Your Grace,” Bastien said cordially as he went to pass him, but Bertrand stopped him.
“Don’t bother wishing me a good morning,” Bertrand practically spat. “Do you have any idea what happened last night?”
“I assume you’re referring to Lady Alice,” Bastien said, trying not to get lost on the familiar word in his mouth.
“I hope you know that I’m holding you personally responsible,” Bertrand snapped.
“I’m not the one that assaulted her,” Bastien said, his voice even despite the anger flaring in his gut.
“No, but you are in charge of security,” Bertrand said. “Why wasn’t security better? Why didn’t her door have a lock? What in the hell are you going to do about this?”
Bastien took a deep breath to quell his emotions. “Tariq has already been dealt with,” he said calmly.
“Really?” Bertrand asked sarcastically. “Has he been charged with assault already?”
“The situation is being handled,” Bastien said.
“You said he’d already been dealt with and now the situation is currently being handled–which is it?” Bertrand demanded.
“I have it under control,” Bastien said evenly. He wanted to scream, to throw something, to finish off Tariq the way he wanted to last night.
“You’d better,” Bertrand said, pointing a finger in Bastien’s face. “We’re leaving for Ramsford as soon as we can get a car. As a guest in my home, I suggest you get it together before everyone else arrives in a few days.” Then Bertrand turned sharply on his heel, leaving Bastien alone in the hallway.
Bastien wanted to tell him the truth, wanted to admit to everything. He wanted to tell Bertrand about the king, about the set up, explain why he couldn’t go to her. Most of all, he wanted to tell Bertrand how much he loved Alice and that he wanted nothing more in the world to protect her with every last breath in his body. But the king’s words still rang loudly in his ears, so instead he kept his composure and said nothing.
Thirty minutes later, Bastien stood upstairs above the main entrance of Applewood, careful to stand in the shadows. A quote from Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon that sprang to his mind, unbidden:
“If two people love each other, there can be no happy end to it.”
Bastien had always found that quote to be too pessimistic in the past, but now he thought Hemingway might be right. He had no idea if Alice had loved him or not, but he knew he loved her in a way he never had before. But he loved her and instead of telling her, he was watching the Beaumonts escort her out the front door. He couldn’t see her as well as he wanted from this distance, but a little bit of her was better than none at all. Then she was gone and Bastien was left behind, bound to his duty.
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