Five hours later, Hugo breathed his last. I held Angel to me as she sobbed. Dr. Amelia lifted the sheet over his head respectfully, crying tears of her own. This was her first patient that she lost. Roland and Miranda came in.
"Take Angel," I whispered. "I-I would like some time with him, please."
We left David with Hugo. I heard David sob and it ignited my anger. I stormed down to the dungeons, ignoring my parents when they told me to stop. Ingrid was in a cell, picking at molding bread. She saw me and came to the door. I slapped her through the bars. The guard came and held me back.
"He's dead!" I screamed at her. "Because of you, he died!"
Ingrid began to sob. "I didn't mean to kill him! I thought he was going to-"
"He was going to take you away from here!" I screamed, trying to make the guard let me go.
Ingrid fell to her knees as my father came and dragged me back up the stairs. I ran out into the rain to the barn. My father let me go but didn't follow. My body was shaking as I found the bow and arrows that David always used.
I pulled back the first arrow but, because I was shaking so much, the string struck my arm and I hissed in pain as it left an angry red welt. I took a few steadying breaths and docked another arrow. I heard footsteps behind me but ignored whoever it was. I let loose the arrow and it almost hit the target.
"Damn it!" I screamed.
I docked another. And another. And another. Each time it missed, I stamped my foot and screamed. Finally, someone yanked the bow out of my hand. I turned and slapped whoever it was. David held me close, though, and we sank to the mud together.
If someone were to collect my tears, I'm sure they would have filled a washtub. The funeral was grand and, even though she wanted to be there, I wouldn't let Ingrid come. He was lowered gently into the cemetery and I tossed down a red rose onto his coffin, Angel doing the same. From down below the village, a chorus of howls lifted in the wind.
Amelia was visiting our room regularly again only this time it was a tonic for our grief. I couldn't eat even though they kept telling me to. I just wanted to sleep forever.
When a week had passed, Amelia came in and shut the door firmly behind her. We looked up. She was carrying a tray of food and a stubborn expression on her face.
"You're going to eat," she said firmly. "Even if I have to force it down your throats, you will eat."
"Not hungry," Angel mumbled and turned back on her side.
I sighed, relenting, and sat up. "Come on, Angel. You look awful."
She glared at me. "Thanks for the compliment."
I managed a smile and got her to sit up. Amelia gave us the food and stood there to make sure we ate it all. It was hard at first but I finished my plate. Angel pushed the peas around on her plate.
"Come on," I said quietly. "They're your favorite."
"I will feed it to you," Amelia threatened.
Angel glared at her but ate anyway. After Amelia left, Angel got out of bed and looked at herself in the mirror. She sighed.
"You're right. I do look awful." She looked at me. "You don't look so great, either."
I got out of bed, too, and wrapped my arms around her. "First place to start is a bath."
She nodded and kissed me. I returned it then pulled the rope. They brought in a larger tub. Angel was weak so I washed her hair for her and poured warm water over her head. She scrubbed my shoulders and, as she got lower, she leaned in and kissed me. Desire took over both of us and I pulled her on top of me in the water.
I sat stiffly on my throne, glaring at the person bent in front of us. Angel was shaking with anger as Ingrid looked up.
"I didn't mean to," she rasped.
"Regardless, you have been tried with murder," Roland said.
"I'll leave," she begged. "I won't come back ever again."
"No," Miranda said coldly. "You do not get to run from your mistakes. You will face the noose the day after tomorrow at dawn."
Ingrid turned to me with pleading eyes. "Hugo wouldn't want me to be executed," she breathed.
Before I could stop her, Angel was on her feet and slapped Ingrid.
"How dare you!?" she screamed as I pulled her back. "How dare you bring him up in such a disgraceful manner!?"
"Angel, calm down, my love," I whispered in her ear.
"Don't you tell me what to do, David!" she screeched but stopped fighting me. "Get her out of here!"
Ingrid hung her head and cried as they took her back to the dungeons. When the door closed, Angel pushed herself out of my arms and flung herself on her throne. None of us spoke. There was nothing else to say.
It was our duty as the royal family to oversee the execution. Ingrid sobbed and continued to plea. Word had spread about Hugo's death, though, and no one felt remorse except for her mother. Angel was gripping my hand so tightly her nails dug into my skin, drawing blood.
"I'm going to go down to the clan," I muttered when the execution was over. "To see how they're doing...."
"May I come?" Angel whispered and I nodded. "I'm sorry I made you bleed."
I kissed her. "Don't be," I said.
We walked through the village. Everyone was wearing black in honor of Hugo. The time of mourning was almost at an end. In the clan, the wolves all did the salute and we returned it. William walked forward.
"We are sorry for the loss of Hugo," he said.
"Thank you," I muttered.
"And thank you for your contribution at his funeral," Angel said.
"He was a good man."
I coughed the lump out of my throat. "How are things progressing down here?"
"Very well," William replied and led us through the homes. "Each home has been built with as minimum tree damage as possible. We have begun planting what we can in preparation for the frost that will come next month. We are getting our meat from the village."
"Why not hunt yourselves?"
"A woman in the market told me she would work with us," he said, sounding pleased. "She said that if we do the hunting, she and her husband will give us a cut of the meat we bring in."
I nodded, making a mental note to stop by the butcher on the way back.
"Have you seen Rosebud recently?" Angel asked.
William shook his head sadly. "She has asked for time alone. I do not know why."
I frowned. "How often have you seen her since our return?"
"Just five times," he answered, looking at the castle. He sighed. "I wish I could see her now but I will respect her wishes."
"I'll speak with her," Angel said. "I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation."
William saluted her. "Thank you. Is there more you desire to overlook?"
"No," I said. "We'll be in touch."
He nodded and went over to a wolf when they called for his assistance. I was glad to see that the wolves had accepted him again; I just wish I hadn't had to be so harsh with them.
Before we went back to the palace, we stopped at the butcher. They bowed to us and extended their condolences.
"Thank you," I said. "I have come, though, to give you my appreciation."
Graham shared a look with his wife. "Why?" He rubbed the back of his neck. "I spoke out against you."
"William, my beta, told me of how you offered to make a deal with the wolves."
"It was my wife's idea," he mumbled.
"But you agreed to it," she said, holding his hand. "Hugo's death.... It made us see that this life is short. What use is fighting among ourselves when we can live in peace and work together?"
"That's very wise," Angel said. "We thank you."
They bowed and we returned to the palace just as it started to rain again.
"I'll go speak with Rosebud," Angel said.
"And I'll be in the painting room."
She nodded and kissed me. Tiberius, who had stayed back at my request, followed me up to the painting room.
"Did it go well?" he asked.
"Yes. They are thriving and the butcher is working with them."
Tiberius nodded. "I am pleased to hear that. Was Adam there?"
"I didn't see him. I imagine he is hiding from me."
"You were pretty terrifying," he said with a bit of a chuckle.
I just smiled and sat down at my painting.