Vicious Prince (Royal Elite #5) - Rina Kent Page 0,1

Dad doesn’t like me and my twin brother. He’s taken care of us since that day he found us curled up in balls, bleeding and starved to death.

But the fact remains: we’re only his foster children. Elsa is his real daughter.

“I volunteered,” I say.

Elsa stops in the middle of the hall, drawing some attention from onlookers. “What?”

I lift a shoulder. “I told Dad I’d do it.”

“But the other time you asked me if this was what I wanted to do. I thought you were against arranged marriages.”

“I was asking if you wanted to do it, and if you didn’t, I would step up. Someone has to help Dad after you chose not to.”

“Ouch.” She grimaces.

“Eh, sorry, I guess.” Since I started to somehow grasp human nature, I’ve learnt they get offended when the truth is shoved in their faces. My twin brother Knox says I’m too direct and that I sound like a bitch.

“It’s okay. I know your mind is only thinking about getting the point across.”

My lips part as her mouth pulls into a smile. She…knows. All this time, only Knox and Dad understood the way my brain works. I never thought Elsa would catch on this soon.

“Thank you.” My voice is barely above a murmur, and I take another bite of the chocolate to fill the silence.

“Teal.” She clutches my shoulders and meets my gaze. “It’s not that I didn’t want to help Dad. It’s that I couldn’t marry someone else since I’m in love with Aiden. That’s not how it works.”

In love.

Not how it works.

I allow my brain to pause on those words and their foreign meanings. Elsa keeps saying these things, and I crash into them every time as if they’re a metal wall.

Sure, I know the dictionary definition of love, but that’s only theoretical. The real world is the practical field, and there’s no such thing as love.

There are hormones, neurotransmitters, and endorphins — chemical reactions.

I wonder when Elsa will finally figure that out. She’s smart in everything except for this.

“Sure,” I say instead. There’s something else I’ve learnt about human interactions: if you agree with them, they drop it, which means less headaches and more peace of mind.

“Besides, Dad will join forces with Aiden’s father, so there’s no need for more allies.”

“Of course there is. Dad returned from a nine-year coma, during which he was cut off from the world. He needs all the allies he can get. Aiden’s father, that Jonathan King bloke, isn’t trustworthy. Do you really think he’ll play nice with Dad after the grudge he held for ten years? He holds Dad responsible for the death of his wife, and that doesn’t just disappear.”

She drops her hands from me and bites her lower lip again. This time, I’m almost sure it’s because she’s contemplating something.

“You’re right.” She sighs. “But I believe Jonathan and Dad will fix their problems over time. You don’t need to sacrifice yourself.”

My brows furrow. “Sacrifice?”

“Well, you already have…you know, a love interest. Marrying someone else is a sacrifice.”

“A sacrifice means slaughtering an animal or a person as an offering to a deity. In other words, it means giving up something valued for other considerations. I’m doing neither.” I allow a small smile to curve my lips. “If anything, I’m gaining something valuable.”

She releases a breath, which means she doesn’t understand my logic. It’s fine, I guess. It’s true Elsa understands some of my thinking, but she won’t get everything so fast.

Besides, no one actually knows me — or at least not the way they think.

They don’t see the constant shadow over my shoulder or the tears trapped in the middle of nowhere.

Only I do.

“What does Knox think about this?” she asks.

“He—” I’m cut off when a strong hand wraps around my shoulder. It’s so sudden, I stiffen and lift my elbow.

A dark figure is grabbing me, his fingers are on me, his smell, his damn —

“Did I hear my name?” An awfully cheerful voice cuts into the usual vicious cycle of thoughts.

My brother. Knox. It’s only Knox.

Usually, I’m okay with someone touching me when I see it coming, like when Elsa clutched my shoulders earlier. I saw her before I felt her and that was fine, but a sudden attack always triggers this stony state.

“Sorry,” Knox whispers, and he loosens his hold.

He of all people knows how it feels. That darkness, feeling without seeing — all of it.

I lift a shoulder, pretending I wasn’t on the verge of an episode. He masks his apology with a