Then she was quiet, still trembling. Alex was frozen, though his mind was not. It was racing through all the possible things they could do. They could run away, again, or they could stay and fight—and die. The first thing on Alex’s mind was protecting Beth.
“Who’s here?” Beth asked in a small voice. She was scared of the answer she would receive.
“His name is Roberto, though he calls himself Robert,” Alex said emotionlessly, still watching Catalin.
“But who is he?” she asked.
Alex hesitated. “Just someone from the past.”
Beth was silenced, for now at least. She would ask again, but till then, Alex didn’t need to think about the past, about his own history, or his parentage. Twisting the gold bracelet around his wrist once again, he tried to focus on Catalin’s mind, to calm her down. Then she fell into his arms, unconscious.
Alex picked her up, cradling her like a baby, still kneeling on the floor. Then he stood up and carried Catalin to her own bed. Laying her down on the bed, he had a look at the wound on her leg. It had stopped bleeding but would probably need to be seen by a doctor. Alex pulled the covers over her and pulled most of the leaves out of her hair, dropping them in the bin before going back downstairs. Beth was still sat on the sofa, looking extremely worried and a little bit annoyed.
“Alex, what’s going on? If you don’t tell me, I can’t help,” Beth said quietly.
“You wouldn’t be able to help anyway.”
“I can at least listen. Sometimes that helps. Please, tell me,” she begged.
Alex scowled. He’d hoped that she wouldn’t ask again, not for a few days. Instead, it had only been five minutes.
“And don’t lie to me. I can tell when you’re lying to me,” she said sadly.
Alex didn’t want to lie anymore. “Shall I start from the beginning?” Beth nodded so he continued. “Robert was a prince once, long ago, first in line to throne of Sardinia. When he was only two years old, his mother died, and his father – the king – fell into despair. One day, a year after his wife’s death, the king was walking in the marketplace and he came across a young Spanish woman. She had light brown hair, and dark green eyes, and small freckles across her cheeks. Everyone knew what she was: a whore, a prostitute, who had to sell herself just to put food on her table because she had no other skills; she had been born into the profession, and she would die in it.
“The king visited this woman in her apartment. And nine months later, she gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, who both had her dark green eyes, but only the little girl had the freckles of her mother. When the king found out, seventeen years later, that he’d had two bastard children with a whore, everyone else found out too. The king eventually killed himself because of the scandal. Robert blamed those twins for his father’s death.
“He was twenty at the time. The day before his coronation, he disappeared, along with his half-siblings. There was evidence of a fight, and lots of blood. But no bodies. The people he was supposed to rule declared that he was possessed by the devil and made no mention of his name in history. Everyone who knew of him died with the secret. Anyone who asked about Robert was told that he had run away, too scared to take the crown.”