Rebecca visibly gnashed her teeth. “Please present yourself.”
Misty bowed her head. It was official. She absolutely had zero radar for detecting royal presence.
When the crowd parted, Misty was not even surprised to see the woman from the restroom sashay up the stage, her earlier misery nowhere to be seen. Instead, Misty saw a young woman brimming with confidence, one aware of the power in her hands – and knew exactly how to wield it.
The woman blew Rebecca a kiss. “Matilda, daughter of the pack leader of the Fontabella.”
“It figures.” Rebecca apparently couldn’t resist making the dig.
Misty was scared that would hurt Matilda but the other woman did not even bat an eyelash. Apparently, her brief display of weakness was an aberration.
Matilda just tossed her hair over her shoulder. “Sourgraping just makes your wrinkles show more, old gal.”
“I am not old!”
“Ancient then,” Matilda said airily as she continued walking. She only stopped when she stood next to Rebecca, and her stance said it all. Matilda was begging for comparison, and it was clear for everyone to see that she was so much more beautiful and sexier and – worst of all – younger than the other woman.
Rebecca’s face was stony. “Anything else?”
“As a matter of fact, yes,” Matilda cooed. “Do you know that I’m what people call a walking lie detector?”
Rebecca took a step back. “Is that so?”
Misty wondered if she imagined the tiniest hint of tremor in Rebecca’s voice.
The whole room was spellbound at the unfolding drama.
Domenico noticed the beads of sweat forming on Rebecca’s forehead and smiled.
“I don’t like using my skills but this once, I would. I can smell lies even miles away. It smells…” Matilda sniffed. “…like you do.”
And before anyone could react, Matlida’s hand swiped something from Rebecca’s pocket.
“Give that back!” Rebecca screamed, but Jayme held her back easily.
Matilda tossed a scrap of paper onto the table.
She had remembered leaving it in her locker before going to Mr. Cavalier’s office and wondered if she had somehow misplaced it when her frantic search for the note afterwards produced nothing but more doubts about her loyalty.
Matilda looked at Rebecca with disgust. “People like her don’t like taking risks. Stupid, really. She should have burned it.”
Noise filled the hall once more, most of which Misty didn’t understand because everyone seemed to be talking in their own language. It sounded very much like Latin and Russian combined.
Domenico finally allowed himself to glance at Misty. She sensed his gaze immediately and turned to him.
“Are you okay?” he asked softly.
She nodded, feeling weak and tired all of a sudden. She wished he would put his arms around her but he didn’t.
“This will be all over soon.” Domenico ached to take her in his arms but knew he should not – or at least not just yet. Because the game was not yet over and he still had moves to execute if his grand plan was to succeed.
Filippo cleared his throat. “In light of recent events, the case for exile against Misty Wall is dropped. The fate of Rebecca Findley is in your hands, Domenico.”
“Domenico, please,” Rebecca murmured. “For the sake of what we shared before---”
Misty stiffened at the implications of Rebecca’s words, her eyes unconsciously seeking Domenico’s face for reassurance. But what she saw in Domenico’s face made her step back in surprised hurt.
They had been lovers.
Damn, damn, damn. Domenico had been hoping this could end without Misty knowing the past he had shared with Rebecca. A stupid meaningless fling, truthfully, but he knew Misty would not like or understand it.
“It will be my eternal regret that I had wasted a second of my time with you.”
“Bastard,” Rebecca screamed.
Domenico’s eyes held a warning. “Another word and you will be exiled.”
Whitening at the threat, Rebecca was reduced to glaring at Misty with loathing.
Domenico was not satisfied. “On second thought, I think you do deserve to be---”
Aghast at what Domenico was about to do, Misty whispered, “No.”
Domenico had known Misty would protest. He knew he was being ruthless, manipulating Misty even though she was hurting, but it was too big an opportunity to pass up.
“What is it, darling?”
Misty flinched, but Domenico pretended not to notice it. Later, he would fix it between them. Later, he would please her and they would forget everything that happened and everything would be all right between them again.
“Not exile. It’s too harsh.” Matteo had once told her that exile was worse than a death sentence for Lyccans. It meant existing without a pack and pack was the lifeblood of every Lyccan.
“Are you sure?” Domenico asked.
Still not looking at Rebecca or Domenico, Misty said, “Yes.”
He nodded then looked at the crowd, one by one, before facing Rebecca. His voice reached every corner of the enormous hall as he spoke, commanding and inflexible, because he wanted everyone to be clear on what he was about to declare.
“Know everyone present here and that my act of clemency is only and will always be on behalf of what my future wife---”
He waited for the gasps to die down.
“---Misty Wall has asked. Anything who goes against her goes against the pack of Moretti and anything she holds dear is precious to the Morettis.” He nodded to Penelope, who mumbled and turned red, to Jayme Cavalier, whose face remained free of expression, and to Matilda, whose eyes glittered in understanding.
It was over, Misty thought almost an hour later. A feeling of immense relief set in as she leaned back against the car seat.
She stiffened, eyes shooting open as she remembered something painful.
Domenico cursed at the silent hurt in her eyes.
She asked slowly, “Why didn’t you tell me about Rebecca?”
Domenico took her hand in his. “It was in the past.”
She just as quickly retrieved it. “Please don’t treat me as if I’m stupid, Domenico. You’re so smart. I know you’d have known that it’s more than possible we’d meet and that she’d be antagonistic toward me. Don’t you think I deserved to know?”
Domenico’s fists clenched at how helpless he was in erasing the hurt in Misty’s eyes. “I know what I did was wrong and I deeply apologize. I promise it won’t happen again.”