“Do you know what time he’ll be back, Igor?”
The older man shook his head. “However, he’s left you a message.”
She tensed. This was it. Fawn squared her shoulders, telling herself that whatever the prince had decided, she would accept it. She would not make a fuss. She would be cool and adult-like—-
“You are to clean the pool for the master’s use.”
“Right.” That was unexpected. “Okay.” But on the other hand, it would give her something to do, and the more she thought about it, the more she realized that it was exactly what she needed. Flashing a bright smile at the prince’s right-hand man, she said, “Thanks, Igor. I’ll get on it right away. I just need to change into my uniform first.”
As Fawn turned around and headed up the stairs, Igor slowly shook his head. When the master had given his orders, he had a lot of misgivings about it, thinking that no girl would accept such a menial task after having her position in the household elevated.
But the master clearly knew Fawn far better than anyone else, Igor thought. He would never have imagined that such an order would place stars in the girl’s eyes, and yet it had.
In the months she had been working for the prince, she had only been tasked to clean the pool twice, and it used to be her least favorite backbreaking task. This time it was the opposite, and she threw herself into her work with full vigor, literally rolling up her sleeves as she worked on draining the pool and then scrubbing the tiles clean. She started with the walls first and after, she got down on her knees to scrub the tiled floor.
It was while she was meticulously checking grout lines for any signs of molding that memories slowly start trickling in—-
She rocked back on her heels and shook her head vehemently.
I don’t want to remember.
But still, faces she didn’t want to see began to crystallize in her mind.
No! Stop it! I don’t want to remember!
Desperate to stop herself from thinking, Fawn fumbled for her phone in her pocket and dialed the prince’s number.
The prince answered on the second ring. “Priscilla speaking.”
“Uh.” The unexpected greeting left her blinking, and all the words that had been about to roll past her lips diffused in a cloud of confusion.
A moment later, she heard the prince’s chuckle travel down the line, and recovering from her shock, she stammered accusingly, “You knew that would throw me off!”
“Of course I did.” The prince sighed. “There’s only one reason you’d call me first, after all.” Before she could ask what that was, the prince murmured pensively, “I thought having you clean the pool would be enough to keep your mind off things, but I guess not.”
Fawn was momentarily distracted by the prince’s revelation. That was the reason why he had her clean the pool? Was that his way of comforting her?
In spite of everything, the thought had a faint, rueful smile touching her lips. As expected, Fawn thought, from the Prince of Darkness. But even so, she was thankful—-
“Should I let you clean the dungeons next time?”
“Prince!” I take it back, Fawn thought with a grimace. She was not thankful at all.
“If it’s what it takes…” The prince deliberately let his voice trail off, thinking that an irritated-sounding Fawn was definitely better than one who sounded like she was about to shatter any moment.
Which was what he knew she would end up being, the prince thought grimly, if he had allowed her to have too much time on her hands.
“I’m never going to clean the dungeons,” Fawn was saying hotly. “It’s creepy as hell, you know.”
“Mm.” The prince was deliberately noncommittal, thinking that if it could get Fawn to react this way, then maybe the dungeons would indeed prove to be a necessary distraction next time.
“Prince!” When he didn’t answer, she warned darkly, “I’m serious. I won’t ever clean your haunted dungeons. Ever.”
“It’s not haunted,” he dismissed.
“It’s a dungeon. All dungeons are haunted.” And the way she was speaking, it was as if she couldn’t believe he had so little IQ not to understand that, making the prince’s lips twitch.
“I mean it, prince. I won’t ever—-”
“Fawn.” He wished he could continue arguing with her, but the prince knew doing so would only delay the inevitable.
The prince’s sober tone got to her, and Fawn quieted, sensing a sudden change in his mood.
“How are you feeling now?”
The prince’s tone was quiet but firm, and she knew it meant he wouldn’t stop until she gave him an answer. But even so, she couldn’t make herself speak.
“Fawn.” The prince’s tone became gentler. “You know we have to talk about it.”
She swallowed. “I don’t want to.” But even as she spoke, she knew it was too late. The part of her heart that still belonged to Grant began to crumble again, and she choked out, “Did you see how he looked at me? At you?”