‘Let’s stop pretending Miss Ford,’ the Queen said softly, ‘I know all about your little masquerade, Angel has told me everything.’
‘You knew about me,’ I said to Hurst, my voice hoarse with shock and anger. ‘You knew all this time and you said nothing to me.’
‘I wasn’t sure if what I knew was true,’ Hurst reasoned.
‘You were sure enough to tell the Queen about it!’ The reality of my situation was beginning to grip me and fear filled my stomach. ‘You’re going to kill me aren’t you,’ I breathed, looking first at Hurst, then the Queen, ‘that’s why you’ve brought me all the way out here, to kill me where no one will see.’ I backed slowly away from Hurst and the Queen, terror hitting me as my back met the wall. I was trapped.
‘We’re not going to kill you,’ Hurst said desperately, grabbing my shoulders. He was probably only trying to calm me down but I was past the point of reasoning. ‘We’re on your side.’
‘How can that be?’ I said, pushing in vain against the strong arms that were holding me. ‘You’re from Handrin, you can’t be on the same side as me.’ I could see no point in keeping up pretences, I’d failed in my ability to keep my true identity hidden and now I was going to pay the price for it.
‘Angel might have Handrian blood, but I don’t.’ The calm voice cut through my panic and I stopped struggling against Hurst’s grip and looked at the Queen. ‘I’m Iberian, just like you. I don’t want to see my people die.’ She approached me slowly, signalling for Hurst to let go of me. ‘I want this war to end but I need your help and loyalty to help me stop it.’
‘But how do I know I can trust you?’ I accused. ‘You’ve led me to a place God knows where with only three other people. I could be killed here and no one would find out.’
‘Look at me Alexandra.’ I flinched as James touched my arm but didn’t step away from him. ‘Eliza trusted me, can’t you have some faith in her judgement and trust me too?’
‘Look what’s happened to her. How do I know you weren’t behind it and if I trust you I won’t end up the same way?’
‘You don’t,’ Hurst said calmly. ‘That’s why it’s called trust.’
‘I know I’ve failed your friend,’ James continued, ‘but I’m going to do everything I can to get her back. I won’t let anything happen to you Alexandra, for her sake.’ I could see a glint of genuine sorrow and pleading in his eyes and I could feel my body relax. I still didn’t know if I could trust the people around me, but I was beginning to realise that right now I was running out of other options.
‘If you turn on me and stab me in the back, you have no idea what my brother will do to you,’ I threatened, making sure they all knew exactly who they were dealing with. I wasn’t the scared girl they had been watching moments before, I was a strong woman who could handle myself. I just hoped that was the truth.
'Even if we were as untrustworthy as you believe,' the Queen said, 'I'm sure you wouldn't need your brother to fight your battles for you.'
It was almost as if she had read my mind, seeing my insecurities and acknowledging them. She made me feel nervous, there was something about the Queen that made me feel vulnerable. Maybe it was the power she had over me, maybe it was because she was clearly a strong woman who could handle her own affairs. Maybe I would never know.
'Where do we go from here then?' I asked bluntly.
'Don't speak to the Queen like that,' Hurst protested, clearly shocked by my sudden change in character.
'It's alright Angel, I don't mind. We don't have the luxuries of hierarchy here, we all have to pull our weight, including me.' Her eyes moved from Hurst back to me, boring into my skin. 'So what would you suggest we do next Alexandra?'
'First, we need to get Eliza back.'