They held Capri in the same room she’d been brought to after she was raped. She wondered if that had been done on purpose, as a punishment. It was meant to be a room for relaxation and recovery, but it felt like a jail cell. In the five hours she was made to wait, Briony was in and out to bring her a meal and change of clothes, but the door was guarded. She wouldn’t be allowed to leave the infirmary until Haddaway had taken her statement.
At least, she hoped she’d be able to leave then.
Briony was gone now; she’d gone to extract an update and demand that Capri be allowed to return to her apartment. She swept in now, carrying a dress over one arm. Capri had already changed into something comfortable and shapeless, though the craftsmanship was beautiful.
Now she was made to change hastily into a backless, chiffon dress. Briony spritzed her with scent and pulled her hair up into a loose bun in record time. Capri went along with it all. She and Briony were a well-oiled machine. Plans had changed, and she trusted her attendant’s judgment.
When the door opened again, it wasn’t Haddaway who entered, but Ekon and his guards. Capri struggled to keep her expression neutral.
“He’ll pay for what he did.” The king promised her vehemently.
Capri’s heart stuttered. Of course they’d know it was Brody. His information was probably in the system from when he’d been a guard. She struggled to remain calm, to fight back the desperation that would be sure to anger Ekon.
She’d thought she’d be having this conversation with Haddaway, and their transpirings would be conveyed impersonally to the king. He wouldn’t be happy, but he wouldn’t be here, looking at her with that same mixture of pity and disdain as he had when Sullivan ruined his plans four years ago.
She had to stay strong and try to turn this around for Brody’s sake.
“There’s no need for that,” she said.
“No need?” Ekon looked appalled. “He kidnapped you, and he raped you.”
Capri glanced at Briony, who was pale but quiet, refusing to demonstrate an opinion and risk betraying either of them. Capri’s cheeks burned, but she looked at Ekon, using everything she had to try and convince him.
“He thought he was protecting me by taking me away from the shooting.”
“And then he seduced you,” Ekon finished.
“No. He won the auction.”
“He had his night. No Victor is awarded the Prize twice.”
“He didn’t…we didn’t…consummate that night.”
The king stared at her in disbelief. “That’s ridiculous.”
She snapped her mouth shut. That had sounded desperate, and Ekon’s gaze turned suspicious. “You love him.”
Capri felt Briony’s eyes on her, too. It was too late to feign detachment, so she settled for something subtly scathing. “I wouldn’t know.”
“Once again, you’ve put me in a difficult position.”
“I’ve never put you in a difficult position,” Capri argued.
Ekon’s gaze hardened, but he kept his control. She’d gotten too used to speaking her mind. “You’ve returned to me damaged beyond repair. You’ll lose your status as the Prize. You’ll be retired and serve another role.”
It was supposed to be a demotion. Capri kept her gaze even. If he noticed her relief, he’d likely change his mind and come up with something far worse.
“And Brody?” she asked.
Capri’s eyes dropped to the floor as she fought for composure. Ekon stepped forward, forcing her chin up so she had to look him in the eye. “You belong to me, Capri. Flaws and all.”
Then he let her go, turned, and left with his guards. Capri stared at the closed door long after he’d gone. She couldn’t react. The sensation was unfamiliar. Heartbreak. She didn’t know whether to scream or cry.
Briony was there, just as she’d been when everything had fallen apart after Sullivan, and the smaller woman slipped her hand into hers.
“Let’s go back to the apartment,” she suggested gently. “We’ll get you a glass of wine and a good night’s sleep.”
Capri turned and hugged her friend, holding her breath so she didn’t burst into tears.
Briony patted her hair, arranged for someone to bring her things up to the apartment, and led the way out of the infirmary to a set of familiar elevator doors. Capri remained in a daze, still trying to process her grief, the anger and denial.
Everything seemed stuck on rewind. She was going back in time, back to her apartment, to when she had no real role in the palace…to when Brody didn’t exist.