Stay (Page 45)

“What’s going on?” Hailey looked panicked. “Have you heard anything? Are Allie and Levi on their way back?”

Georgina shook her head before stumbling toward the wall.

“What do you mean? What’s going on?” Hailey wrapped her arms around herself protectively.

Georgina started sobbing uncontrollably.

“No. You don’t mean. No.” Hailey shook her head.

Casey returned to my side, and for once it was her pulling me into her arms.

Georgina nodded. “I’m afraid so.”

“But. No.” Hailey kept shaking her head. “Not possible.”

Casey released me and walked over to Hailey.

Hailey shrugged her off. “No. It’s all a mistake. It has to be.”

“I wish it were,” Georgina said stoically. “I’d do anything for it to be, but your brother is the one who told me himself. They found the island destroyed.”

“Where’s she going?” Georgina asked.

I turned around. Casey was gone. How had that happened?

“I’ll find her.” I hurried off down the corridor. Was she so upset by the news that she wanted to be alone? I was still in a state of shock. Levi and Allie gone?

I caught up with her in what must have been an old office. From the dust on the desk, it couldn’t have been used recently.

“Casey?”

She turned. “It’s all my fault.”

“How is any of this your fault?”

“All of it is. Tiffany wouldn’t have… she wouldn’t have hurt them if it weren’t for me.”

“What?” I wrapped my arms around her waist. “That makes no sense. “

“If I weren’t around she wouldn’t have done it.”

“Yes she would have. She’d have found another way.”

She sighed. “None of this really makes sense. She went through so much effort.”

“I think I understand what her original plan was. This was just plan C.”

“What was it?” She hopped up onto the desk.

I sat down beside her. “If the king steps out on his mate he loses the crown, right?”

“That’s what I’ve been told.”

“Her first plan was to take the crown from Robert by making him disloyal.”

“But that didn’t work,” she said softly.

“Right. It wasn’t that simple. Robert didn’t magically lose his position. The punishment occurred for the next generation. An enchantress, Allie was born.”

“She was born at almost the same time I was.”

“Exactly.”

“In theory that should have been enough. She just needed Allie to pick another heir.”

“Like you.” Casey frowned slightly.

“I’m half convinced she set all that up too. I mean I moved to Allie’s school because Dad got some terrific job opportunity. She was an enchantress. All I had to do was meet her to get hooked.”

“Do you really believe all of your attraction to her was because of that?”

I shrugged, and that caused my shoulder to brush against hers. “Some of it. It’s impossible to know, but I probably would have had a crush on her anyway.”

Casey smiled lightly. “Yeah, I’d think so.” I noticed that Casey’s tone had no hint of jealousy. There was however a sadness there. She hadn’t known Allie nearly as well as I had, but she felt the loss.

“But what I was getting at is that after Allie chose Levi, Tiffany had to come up with another plan. Do you think it’s a coincidence that she came after you now?”

“You’re right. You’re absolutely right.”

“I’m glad you agree, but does that put your guilt to rest? I’ll ask you again, how is any of this your fault?”

“I feel guilty anyway.”

I hopped down and stood in front of her. I put my hands on either side of her face. “You shouldn’t.”

She shrugged. “Now what? Now what happens?”

“I don’t exactly know, but my guess is Georgina does.”

“But who takes power? You?”

“Me?” I held a hand to my chest. “Not exactly.”

“Then who?”

I paused before answering her question. I hoped she was ready for the answer. “You. You become queen.”

Chapter Twenty-Five

Casey

“Me?” I choked the word out. “I’m in charge?”

“Yes, and I expect you to take your place without complaint.” Georgina walked into the office. She was no longer crying, and she was all business.

“There has to be another way. I can’t be queen. I know nothing about The Society. I shouldn’t even be here.”

“You are a Laurent. You will take your place. You will declare Toby as your intended mate. That will quell the hysteria over Lev—the king. Two of the strongest Pteron families united should let people know who’s in charge.” Georgina’s inability to say her grandson’s name was the first hint that she wasn’t as okay as she wanted us to believe.

“I can’t become queen,” I repeated. I couldn’t even think about the mate part. Become queen? Was she crazy?

Georgina stepped in front of Toby to get to me. He quickly stepped back. He probably knew that getting in Georgina’s way after the news she’d been given wouldn’t be a good idea. She took my face in her hands. “You are a Laurent. You will step up and take your place. You will represent your family and lead The Society. We all need you.”

“But how? I know nothing about leading.” Tears poured down my face out of a mix of shock, grief, and overwhelming fear. I’d just met my half-brother and now he was gone. How was The Society going to survive without his leadership? I couldn’t do half as good a job as he could.

“You won’t be alone. You will have advisors, your mate, and you’ll have me. You can and will do this.”

“Not yet. What if the information you have is wrong? What if they’re okay?” I still held onto the glimmer of hope that the information was wrong.

Georgina shook her head. “I refuse to let delusions and false hope derail us. This Tiffany character wants us to panic. She wants us to get lost in grief and let everything fall apart. We have a duty to our people to maintain decorum. We will do that. We will get everything in place, and only when we have taken care of The Society will we allow ourselves time to grieve.”

“I can’t imagine how horrible all of this is for you. Is Robert—is my father back?”