Guarded Hearts, Part 41

Summary: The aftermath of the Homecoming Ball.

Notes: I used some of the original PB dialogue and bedazzled it a bit. 

CW: Blood, references to gun violence, brief reference to character death

New to the series? Catch up here: Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8,Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12Part 13, Part 14Part 15Part 16Part 17Part 18Part 19Part 20Part 21Part 22Part 23Part 24Part 25Part 26Part 27Part 28Part 29Part 30Part 31Part 32Part 33Part 34Part 35Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39, Part 40

Olivia maneuvered the SUV through a thick forest, the tress so dense that they blocked out most of the light.

“Are you sure you know where you’re going?” Drake asked.

“I’m following the GPS instructions. Would you like to do it instead or would you prefer to shut the hell up so I can focus and look for this tiny dirt road?” Olivia snapped.

As they continued to bicker, Alice stared out the window into the dark nothingness around her, dark, dried smears of blood slightly obscuring her view in spots. Her throat still hurt from yelling and her hands felt sticky, but she couldn’t think of anything but Bastien. She thought of him in the ballroom, knocking her to the ground, taking a bullet for her. She thought of tying the piece of her dress around his arm. Most of all, she thought of him staying behind to go back into the ballroom. Did he have any other injuries? Was he dead? She was plagued by the idea of him lying in a pool of blood on the ground like Regina had been…no, she couldn’t think like that. But, even though she tried not to think about it, the images wouldn’t leave her mind. Alice pulled her phone out of her clutch and checked it for what felt like the hundredth time, but still no service. She put the phone away.

When they finally arrived at the cabin, Olivia let Drake and Alice out of the backseat and the three of them made their way into the dimly lit cabin, which was only lit with emergency lights. Drake flipped the light switch by the door a few times, but nothing happened.

“Generator might be busted, but there has to be an emergency backup somewhere,” Drake said. “Olivia, was there a flashlight in the car?”

“There should be one under the front seat,” she said, tossing him the keys.

“Great, I’ll go get that and start looking for that generator,” he said. When he’d gone, Olivia turned to Alice.

“How are you?” Olivia asked.

“I don’t know,” Alice said. “I can’t stop thinking about him going back in there.”

Olivia nodded and looked down at Alice’s hands, still dark with Bastien’s blood. “You should probably wash up a little.”

“You, too,” Alice said, pointing to the dried blood that flecked Olivia’s fair skin.

They headed into the bathroom and Alice turned on the water as Olivia leaned closer to the mirror to examine her face under the dim emergency light. “Ugh, I really do have a fair amount on me.”

Alice focused on her hands, trying not to scrub too hard near her ring finger. She knew the pen would have to come off, but she wasn’t ready. Not yet.

“Alice…” Olivia began as she took a washcloth and began to wipe at her face. “I know you’re upset—and justifiably so—but we need to start thinking about our next moves. As a duchess, Valtoria and the rest of Cordonia are going to be looking to you to be a source of strength for them. I know you feel like everything inside you has completely shattered, but you can’t show that to them right now. They’re scared and uncertain and need you to be calm and collected and strong.”

Alice nodded as she let the last of Bastien’s blood flow from her hands, spinning down the drain until there was nothing but cold, clean water. “I know. I’ll be ready,” she said quietly. “How are you doing?”

“I’m…I don’t know. Not good,” Olivia admitted. “I’d be better if I knew Liam was okay.”

“For what it’s worth, he seemed to be kicking a fair amount of ass when I left the ballroom,” Alice offered.

“Bastien’s the one who trained him,” Olivia said, her eyes meeting Alice’s in the mirror. “Even injured, he’s a better fighter than most.”

“Thank you.”

“Ayers? Olivia?” Drake called from the other room. Alice turned off the water, dried her hands, and followed Olivia back out into the living room. “I couldn’t find the generator, but we should probably get some sleep anyway.”

“I don’t think I could sleep right now,” Alice said.

“Me either,” Olivia said.

“I don’t think I could either, but I had to suggest it anyway,” Drake said as he sat down on one of the couches in the living room. Olivia sat across from him on the other sofa and Alice sat between them in a large armchair, tucking her feet beneath her. They sat in silence for a long while, each of them lost in their own thoughts as they replayed those final moments at the palace over and over and over again.

“Whose blood was on you?” Alice finally asked.

“As soon as I realized what was happening, I pulled out one of my daggers and took out two assassins before Liam sent me outside with two security guards,” Olivia said. “Once I was outside, they pointed me towards the SUVs and went back inside.

One of your daggers?” Drake asked. “Exactly how many do you have on you?”


“Where are…you know what? Never mind,” Drake said, shaking his head.

“I knew the palace had been getting some threats, but I thought tonight was supposed to be really safe,” Alice said. “Bastien made sure to double the security on the event, especially since he was supposed to just be there as a guest.”

“That’s what happens,” Olivia said quietly. “Everything is safe until it isn’t.”

Their conversation lapsed back into silence for a moment and Alice looked down at her hands.

“Bastien and I were going to elope tonight,” she said.

“Really?” Drake asked, then paused. “Were you about to tell me that early? When Bastien said something about celebrating?”

Alice nodded as she gently touched her ring finger, part the line Bastien had drawn still faintly visible in the dim light. She thought about his hands and couldn’t help but wonder if he was still alive to see his own band of ink. “Do you think everyone else is alright?” she asked. “The Beaumonts, Hana, Rashida…”

“Savannah and Bartie,” Drake added, his voice barely above a whisper.

“I hope so,” Olivia said. “Let’s be honest, with all of her training, I’d be willing to bet Hana’s almost as good of a fighter as me.”

Alice laughed, surprising herself, although it sounded brittle and forced to her ears. “You’re probably right.

“She’d fight everyone effortlessly and then apologize when they were bleeding in a pile,” Drake said.

“Then Maxwell would do a victory dance around them,” Alice said. “Right before Bertrand lectured him about the proper way to celebrate so as to not bring shame upon House Beaumont.”

“Then Liam—“ Olivia started to say, then stopped.

“He’s really good at this, Olivia,” Drake said, his voice trembling a little. He coughed. “Really, really good.”

“I know,” she said. “I just—“ Her words suddenly broke off into a sob and she buried her face in her hands. Alice immediately moved to sit beside her, wrapping her arms around Olivia as she cried, shoulders shaking with the force of it. Drake sat on Olivia’s other side and hugged her as she cried, none of them saying a word.

Eventually, Olivia’s sobs subsided and she sat up, rubbing fiercely at her eyes. “I’m sorry, I…I…”

“We know,” Alice said quietly.

“If either one of you tells anyone I cried, I’m going to flay you both,” she warned.

“Duly noted,” Drake said.

“I solemnly swear not to tell anyone you love your fiancé, Jon Snow,” Alice said.

Olivia lay down and rested her head on Alice’s lap as Drake leaned against the far corner of the house, hands folded over his chest as he looked up at the ceiling, lost in his own thoughts once more. Alice comfortingly ran her fingers through Olivia’s hair until the duchess fell asleep. She looked over at Drake and found he’d drifted off as well. Alice felt the adrenaline start to leave her as the exhaustion began to set in and she leaned her head on the arm of the couch, resting her eyes for a moment. Just before she fell asleep, she thought of Bastien smiling at her after she’d said yes.

A few hours later, sudden knocking on the front door of the safe house startled them awake. Alice jumped up, nearly shoving a groggy Olivia off of her lap to run for the door. She flung it open and was relieved to see Liam, Hana, Maxwell, and Bertrand on the other side.

“Alice, oh my god, are you okay? Are you hurt?” Liam asked, hugging her tightly.

“I’m okay,” she said, hugging him back. “Are you okay?”

“I’m okay,” he said, releasing her. When she looked at him, she saw he’d already moved on, his eyes locked on Olivia. He quickly crossed the room and pulled Olivia into his arms, burying his face in her hair.

“Are you guys okay?” Alice asked, quickly joined by Drake in hugging each of the others in turn.

“Yes,” Bertrand said, hugging her so hard she found it hard to breathe. “I am so grateful you’re okay.”

“How did you all make it out of the palace?” Alice asked.

“After Maxwell and I were separated from you in the crowd, we tried to get back to you, but the palace security wouldn’t let us go back,” Hana said.

“Security said their orders were to clear the room…not many people were crazy enough to be trying to get back in,” Maxwell said.

Alice felt her throat tighten. “What about Bastien?”

“Bastien got me out of the ballroom,” Liam said, arm still around Olivia as if he was afraid to let go of her. “Once the assassins saw that I was out of their reach, they fled. We regrouped and went to another safe house. My security forces escorted us here once we were sure that our presence wouldn’t put you three in further danger.”

“Is he here?” Alice asked, trying not to cry.

“No,” Liam said. “He’s alive, but…Alice, I’m going to be blunt. In addition to the gunshot wound, he took another shot to the leg.” Alice sucked in a sharp breath, but held herself together as Liam continued. “His leg may never be the same, but he should still be able to walk.”

“He’s…he’s alive?” Alice asked, voice shaking. He’s alive. He’s hurt, but he’s alive. Liam nodded as Maxwell put his arm around Alice.

“He told me to tell you that he knows you’re angry with him, but he loves you and he’s sorry,” Liam said.

“Are Savannah and Bartie okay?” Drake asked Bertrand.

“I got them out early, they were among the first to escape,” Bertrand said. “They’re safe and staying in the city. Savannah wanted to come here, but we decided it was best to keep Bartie close to support services, just in case.”

Drake nodded, relieved. “I was…god, I couldn’t even let myself think about…”

“Drake, it’s okay,” Liam reassured him. “They’re okay.”

“Where’s Rashida? Is she okay?” Drake asked. Hana nodded.

“She ended up at a different safe house but she called me to let me know she’s okay,” she said.

“Regina and Constantine?” Olivia asked.

Liam’s face was grim. “My father survived, but Regina…it looks so far like she was the only casualty. I’m just thankful that no more lives were lost, but some people were caught in the crossfire and sustained serious injuries. Kiara was caught by a knife, though I’m assured there will be no permanent damage…Justin was also shot.”

“Justin?” Alice asked dumbly.

“He, Kiara, and Bastien are all in the hospital now, receiving the best care Cordonia has to offer,” Liam said.

“When can I see him?” Alice asked.

“As soon as we get clearance to go back,” Liam promised her.

“When will that be?”

“My guards and the police are still securing the palace. It’ll be an active crime scene until they’re done,” Liam said apologetically. “They’ll call when they’re certain the palace is safe, and that all evidence has been collected.”

“I still can’t wrap my mind around how something so horrible could happen,” Hana said.

“Yeah…who do you think could be behind it?” Maxwell asked.

“Cordonia has its fair share of enemies, but it’s pointless to speculate and worry about it now,” Liam said. Alice noted the slight shift in his demeanor and knew he knew more than he was letting on, but she let it go.

“I hate to be the pragmatic one—“ Bertrand said.

“Since when?” Alice and Maxwell asked almost simultaneously. Bertrand ignored them.

“—but when we return, we’re going to face a press and a country that both want answers. Rightfully so, I’d say,” Bertrand continued. “Alice, as the new duchess of Valtoria, there will be many who will be looking to you for answers.”

Alice nodded and straightened her shoulders, glancing at Olivia who nodded encouragingly at her. “I’ll do everything I can to make sure every citizen feels safe. Whatever it takes.”

Bertrand nodded. “I know you will. Just know that this is the sort of event that shakes a populace to its core.”

“People are really afraid right now,” Hana said.

“Yes, they fear for the monarchy,” Bertrand said. “As you know, this isn’t the first royal assassination attempt.”

“They should have faith in Liam,” Drake said determinedly. “I know I do.”

“Thank you, Drake, but Bertrand’s right,” Liam said. “I’m still a relatively new king; I need to earn their trust.”

“In the meantime, it would do us all good to recuperate while we wait for the all-clear to return to the palace,” Bertrand said.

“Speaking of, why is it so dark in here?” Hana asked.

“I think the generator’s busted,” Drake said. “Only the emergency lights came on when we got here. I tried to look for a backup last night but it was really dark.”

“I’ll go see if I can find it,” Maxwell offered. “I don’t know if I can sit still right now anyway.”

“Want some company?” Alice asked. “I could use a distraction.”

“That’d be nice,” Maxwell said, smiling at her. “Plus, I’m not sure I know how to fix a generator.”

“Do you know how to fix a generator?” Olivia asked Alice skeptically. Alice shrugged.

“Guess we’ll find out.”

“Hey, before you go, I brought you a change of clothes,” Hana said, removing a bag from her shoulder that Alice hadn’t noticed before that moment. “I figured you might want to get out of your dress.”

“Thanks, Hana,” Alice said. She glanced down and saw it was still streaked with Bastien’s dried blood. “That was probably a good idea.”

Alice accepted the bag and slipped into the bedroom to change. She opened it and found a black, knee-length dress and heels. Alice sighed. Of course Hana brought a dress and heels to the woods. However, Alice noticed something else at the bottom of the bag and smiled as she pulled out her leather jacket. She slipped it on and immediately felt better.

“You look lovely!” Hana exclaimed when Alice returned.

“Thank you for my jacket,” Alice said.

“Figured you’d need it,” she said, squeezing Alice’s hand.

“Ready?” Maxwell asked from the door front door.

“Ready,” Alice said and she followed him outside.

The forest looked drastically different in the early morning as the sunlight dappled the trees, and for a moment Alice thought of when she and Bastien had gone camping. He’s alive. He’s hurt, but he’s alive, she reminded herself.

“Man, something like this…an assassination attempt…it makes me think maybe all this stuff with House Beaumont isn’t such a big deal after all,” Maxwell said as they made their way around the safe house.

“What do you mean by ‘all this stuff?’”

“You know, the never-ending pursuit of fame and fortune. Bertrand’s legacy…”

“Bartie is Bertrand’s legacy,” Alice said.

Maxwell smiled weakly. “I know, you’re right. But do you know what I mean?”

Alice nodded. “I do. Mostly, I’m mad at myself for wasting so much time overthinking everything and being too scared to go after what I want.” She paused, carefully maneuvering in heels over the forest floor as Maxwell snapped a twig off of a nearby branch and began fiddling with it.

“You know what I think?” Maxwell asked. “Whoever’s behind this attempt is screwed. They may have tried to hurt us, but we’re all too tough and we can make it through any crisis…though, I’m not just sure how just yet.”

“We’ll figure something out,” Alice said. “We always do.”

They stopped when they reached the back of the house. The generator was tucked against the exterior wall, covered in leaves and branches.

“No wonder Drake couldn’t find this last night,” Alice said as Maxwell examined the machine. On the wall nearby, half-covered by ivy, Alice noticed a breaker box.

“Well…it looks like there’s a power button on here, but pushing it doesn’t do anything,” Maxwell said, eyes still fixed on the generator.

“What about the breaker?” Alice asked, pointing. Maxwell stood up and opened the rusty metal door, examining the switches inside. He took a moment to read the instructions on the inside of the door.

“Yeah, the one labeled ‘generator’ isn’t lit up. Here…” He flipped the switch, but nothing happened.

“Maybe the power button now?” Alice bent down and pressed the button. The generator immediately began to hum and when she placed a hand on it, she could feel subtle vibrations.

“We did it!” Maxwell exclaimed, a wide grin spreading across his face. “Alice, I think I have a future in electronics.”

“I’ll be sure to give you a good reference,” she said. “Pretty soon, you’ll be as talented as Hana.”

“Oh, no, I’ll never be at her level,” Maxwell said, shaking his head. He plucked another twig off of a nearby branch and twisted it around the first one, his mind not seemingly aware of his hands’ anxious movements. Alice watched him silently for a while before he finally looked back at her.

“Listen, Alice…” Maxwell said. “I was so scared last night. Not for my own safety…well, I mean, partly for my own safety. But I was also really scared for you. I was sitting in the other safe house with Bertrand last night, thinking about what I’d…what we’d do if you weren’t around anymore, and…well, I don’t know what I would’ve done if I never got the chance to tell you how much you mean to me. You are one of the best friends I’ve ever had and you’re my sister, and I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Hey,” Alice said, stepping closer to him and pulling him into a hug. “You already show me that every day. I don’t know why I’ve gotten so stupidly lucky to have you and Bertrand, but I’m not going anywhere.”

“I’m just so glad you’re safe,” he said. “I saw that assassin point that gun at you, and…” he trailed off.

“I’m okay,” she reassured him before giving him a final squeeze and letting him go. “We should probably go back inside though. I don’t want the others to worry.”

He nodded and the two of them walked arm and arm back inside.

“Let there be light!” Maxwell exclaimed as they re-entered the safe house and he flipped the light switch next to the door.

“Hey, where is everyone?” Alice asked, confused to only see Drake.

“Liam and Bertrand had calls to make, Olivia is lying down, and Hana went to find the kitchen and see about making some food,” Drake said.

“They have service out here?” Alice asked. “Where are they? I need to use one of their phones.”

“I’m sure you can use Bertrand’s when he’s done,” Maxwell assured her. “Did Hana find anything good?” he asked Drake.

“She said something about having brought brownie mix,” Drake said.

“Hell yes!” Maxwell said, jogging towards the kitchen.

Alice walked over to the couch and sat beside Drake. “How are you doing?”

“Better,” he said. “I’m really relieved Savannah and Bartie are okay. Bastien, too,” he added.

“If there was a question about whether or not he’d walk again, he’s not okay.”

“I know. I’m sorry, I’m not trying to minimize what happened to him,” Drake said. “I’m just…I’m really relieved he’s not dead.”

“Me, too,” Alice said as she stared down at her hands.

“I can’t stop thinking about who might be coming after Liam,” Drake said. “And you,” he added.

“I don’t think they were targeting me specifically,” Alice said.

“You also don’t know that they weren’t,” Drake said. “One of them did try to shoot you. And whoever it is is dangerous and powerful. I just feel so helpless,” he admitted. “There has to be something I can do to help.” He thought for a moment. “We need Cordonia to be strong right now,” she said. “The people need something big to rally behind…an event to show that the country’s still strong and united.”

“An event? Doesn’t that seem like kind of a bad idea since everyone was just attacked at a big event?” Alice asked.

“What better way is there than to throw up a middle finger?” Drake asked.

“I’d rather just actually throw up a middle finger.”

“Ah, ah, ah, you’re a fancy duchess now,” Drake teased her. “You have to find other ways to tell people to fuck off.”

“God, being a noble is so difficult,” Alice said dramatically. “You really should’ve warned me.”

“Oh, sorry, my fault,” he said with a grin as he rolled his eyes.

“Alright, what’s your idea?”

“Liam and Olivia’s wedding,” Drake said. “Last night was an attack on the monarchy, so why not show how united everyone is behind the monarch’s wedding?”

Alice nodded. “That’s…actually not a terrible idea.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that,” she said. “I’m trying to compliment you, I’m just doing it very badly. By marrying Liv, Liam is not only marrying the woman he loves, but he’s uniting with one of Cordonia’s oldest houses. That could show a deep commitment not only to Cordonia, but to Cordonia’s history”

“Look at you brushing up on your history,” Drake said, impressed.

“Bertrand and Bastien have done their best to make sure I don’t completely embarrass myself. Plus, Olivia reminds me every ten seconds about the rich Nevrakis history. Although…do you realize you just suggested uniting the country behind a big, fancy event full of nobles?”

“Oh god, I did, didn’t I?” Drake asked, wincing.

“I’m going to tell everyone you love nobles and fancy parties and tiny finger food that isn’t at all filling.”

“There are worse fates.”

“Worse fates? Are you plotting revenge without me?” Olivia asked as she joined them. She was quickly followed by the others and Alice immediately zeroed in on Bertrand.

“Do you have service out here? Can I use your phone?” Alice asked, jumping to her feet. Bertrand dug his phone out of his pocket and handed it over.

“I don’t have much battery left, but you’re welcome to whatever there is,” he said.

“Thank you,” Alice said, breathing a sigh of relief. “Drake, tell them your idea, I’ll be right back.”

“What idea?” Liam asked, but Alice was already gone, slipping into the bedroom and closing the door behind her. She took a deep breath to steady herself and she typed in Bastien’s number.

Please pick up, please pick up, please pick up, she silently begged as the phone began to ring.

“You’ve reached Bastien Lykel. Please leave a message.

“Hey, Dorian, it’s me,” she said. “There’s so much I want to say to you, but my head is spinning right now and I don’t know what to say first. I just…I’m so glad you made it out. I’m still going to be super pissed at you later, but I’m just so relieved you’re safe. I love you so much and I’m going to get there as soon as I can. I love you.”

She hung up the phone and stared at it for a moment, tempted to call back over and over again until he answered, or at least until Bertrand’s phone battery ran out. Instead, she returned to the living room and handed the phone back to Bertrand.

“Did he answer?” Bertrand asked. Alice shook her head. “He might be sleeping,” he said. “I’ll get you there as soon as I can.”

“Thanks,” Alice said, bumping his arm with hers before turning to the group. “Did Drake tell you his idea?”

“He did, but I find it difficult to believe Drake suggested a party with nobles,” Liam said. “However, I do think it’s a good one.”

“I agree,” said Olivia. “Plus, with assassins around, I’ll have an excuse to wear daggers on our wedding day.”

“What was going to be your excuse before the assassins?” Liam asked, smiling affectionately at her.

“I look really good in daggers.”

“This could be a really good way to restore the Cordonian people’s faith,” Bertrand said. “A show of hope, renewal, and love.”

“Yay!” Hana said excitedly. “Oh, this is going to be so fun. Can I help plan it?”

“Considering your skill set, absolutely,” Olivia said.

“What about me?” Maxwell asked.

“You can help with the music.”

Liam’s phone buzzed in his pocket and he answered it, his expression drawn. After a moment, he hung up and turned to Alice.

“That was palace security calling to give us clearance to return to the palace. A motorcade is on its way to bring us home,” he said.

“We still have the SUV here,” Alice said. “Is it okay if I take that?”

“I’ll drive you,” Bertrand offered.

“Of course,” Liam said. Drake fished his keys out of his pocket and handed them over.

“Guys, you know that I know how to drive, right?” Alice said.

“I’m leaving now!” Bertrand called over his shoulder as he headed out the front door. Alice hurried after him and quickly climbed into the car. Bertrand started the car and, after typing in the hospital’s address into the GPS, slowly started to make his way down the narrow dirt roads and out of the forest.

“For the record, I know you can drive,” Bertrand finally said. “I just…wanted to do this for you. I wish I could do more.”

“Thank you,” Alice said. “How are you holding up?”

“I’m alright, I suppose,” Bertrand said. “Savannah and Bartie are okay, you and Maxwell are okay. I can’t really ask for much more than that.” He paused. “What, uh…what’s with the back window?” He asked, gesturing at the window that was still covered with Alice’s bloody handprints.

“My hands, Bastien’s blood,” Alice said.

“Ah, yes, Drake did mention something about that when you and Maxwell went to check the generator.”

They rode in silence for a while as Bertrand finally merged the car back onto a paved road.

“Bastien and I were going to elope last night,” Alice said.


“Yeah. We were going to leave right after the speeches.”

“Ah.” He paused for a moment. “Are you still going to get married?”

“Eventually. The timeline will likely depend on his recovery though.”

“Well, when you’re ready…not to dissuade you from eloping if that’s what you want to do, but if you wanted to get married at Ramsford, I’d be more than happy to host you there.”

“Thanks, Bertrand,” Alice said. “That’s really nice of you.”

“But I suppose you might want to get married at Valtoria. Or maybe in New York? Good lord, please don’t tell me you were going to elope in Las Vegas with Elvis Presley…”

Alice laughed. “I’m not gonna lie, the idea was mentioned.”

Bertrand shuddered. “That’s horrifying.”

“More horrifying than assassins attacking the palace?”


When they reached the hospital, Bertrand stayed in the waiting room while Alice hurried ahead to Bastien’s room. She cautiously opened the door and discovered him sleeping in his bed. He had a cut above his eye and his shoulder was heavily bandaged, but other than that he looked okay. She remembered Liam had said his leg was injured, but his lower half was covered with a blanket. Alice quietly shut the door behind her, but not quietly enough.

“Hey,” Bastien said, his voice gravelly. He smiled weakly at her. “How mad are you?”

“Very, but I’m going to let it slide,” Alice said as she sat on the edge of the right side of his bed and took his hand in hers. He brought her hand to his lips and kissed her fingers.

“I’m sorry I missed our wedding,” he said.

“It’s okay, we’ll reschedule.”

“Gray, I’m sorry I—“

“Stop,” Alice said softly. “I’m just glad you’re here.”

Bastien smiled at her and shifted over in the bed to make room. He patted the bed beside him.

“Are you sure? Your leg…” Alice said, but he nodded.

“It’s fine. Mostly because I’m doped up on a lot of painkillers, but it’s fine. Please,” he said. Alice set down her clutch on the small bedside table and carefully climbed onto the bed beside him. Bastien took her left hand and brought it close to his face to study it. “Do you have a pen?”

Alice retrieved her bag and pulled out a pen, handing it to him. Bastien then carefully redrew the line on her ring finger.

“I might have to wait a little longer to get you a replacement ring,” he said. “The jewelry selection at the hospital is terrible.”

“We should really complain to someone about that,” Alice said as she redrew his and snuggled closer to him.

“We should,” he agreed, kissing her gently. “Although right now, I don’t really feel much like complaining.”

Part 42

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