The Apprehension (Unexpected Circumstances #6) - Shay Savage
Chapter 1—Righteously Execute
I felt as though my insides had dropped from my body into my feet. My throat closed up on me, and I could not draw a breath. I could see Whitney out of the corner of my eye as she stepped from one foot to the other and twisted her hands together. I looked at Nelle on the floor at Branford’s feet and tried to comprehend what she was saying.
My head reeled, cycling through all the times Janet had brought my tea to my rooms—every morning, often staying to make sure I drank it. I remembered when Hadley first came to Silverhelm, and how Janet had immediately offered her the same tea she made for me though she had never offered to make it for anyone else.
I glanced up at Branford as he stood there beside me, his face ashen and his eyes wide as he glared down at the woman near his boots. His mouth opened slightly then closed again as the fingers of his hand twitched—as if trying to grasp something out of the air.
“What tea?” he uttered quietly.
Nelle simply stared up at him.
“I said what tea?” He bellowed as the woman startled. She tried to push herself backwards on the ground, but Parnell held her in place. As he tightened his grip on her shoulder, he angled her body to one side, and I could see he held a sharp blade at her back.
“Janet makes me tea in the morning,” I said quietly.
Branford turned his head toward me with a snap.
“I…I said…she makes my morning tea,” I whispered. My gaze didn’t leave Nelle’s.
Branford turned from me back to Nelle and then to Edgar.
“This has been your doing all along,” Branford stated as he took a slight step toward the other king. “This is why you have pressured my court to have me secure an heir. You knew Alexandra would not bear my child because you made sure she would not.”
“Do not be absurd,” Edgar said with a wave of his hand.
“No…not absurd,” Branford said. He shook his head. “Actually, it all makes sense now where it did not before. You have lied to this court, and you have plotted against another royal.”
“Surely you do not believe the mutterings of this woman,” Edgar said with a sneer. “She is obviously mad.”
The murmurs of other court members became louder, and the anger in their tones was apparent. Edgar glanced around nervously as he pulled his daughter close to his side. Even I could see the guilt in his eyes.
“Get out,” Branford said darkly. “Leave here now while you still can.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Branford—”
The sound of a sword leaving its scabbard echoed around the chambers as first Branford’s sword was raised to King Edgar, and then King Edgar’s guards did the same, only with the intent to shield Edgar from Branford’s blade. The guards behind me stepped around with their own weapons drawn as did Lord Williams and Sir Rylan. Soon, it seemed every man had a sword drawn and pointed toward either Edgar or Branford.
Branford moved his gaze in a circle from King Edgar to Nelle to me and then back to Edgar again. Branford lowered his sword only a fraction and then snarled through clenched teeth.
“Get out of my kingdom.”
Edgar’s guards moved closer together, further shielding their king from the sharp end of Branford’s sword.
“Now!” Branford shouted. “And do not return!”
Edgar’s eyes narrowed, and without a word, he took a few steps backwards. Two of his guards stayed in front of him while the other two took positions at his back, ushering Princess Whitney into the protected area. The first of the guards continued to walk backwards with his sword drawn until the group from Hadebrand was outside of the great hall.
“Parnell, follow them,” Branford said. His gaze moved to Nelle. “Once they have left the castle gates, have Brigham take nine others with him to make sure they pass our borders. Six should stay behind as additional border guards. No one from Hadebrand is to cross. Understood?”
“Yes, my king,” Parnell replied with a quick bow. He pulled his arm away from Nelle’s back and sheathed the knife he had in his hand. He turned on his heel and quickly followed the retreating Hadebrand royalty. Sir Rylan took a step closer to Nelle and put his hand on her shoulder to hold her in place. Lady Suzette stepped off to one side, carefully watching Branford.
“Dunstan, fetch Janet.”
“Do not say a word to her,” Branford