Zahra's hands were shaking as Cain handed her a piece of paper and an ink pen. Don't do this, Zahra! Don't trick the Prince! But then again, why should I care?
It was in that moment that Zahra admitted to herself the truth she'd been trying to avoid: she cared about the Prince. Certainly not love, as she had not known the Prince long enough to love him...and because as much as she hated to be attracted to two men, Zahra was still somewhat captivated by the charming knight.
The charming knight.
"You know what to write, Zahra," Cain said, grabbing a fistful of Zahra's hair and yanking it so that Zahra had no choice but to turn her face to him. "You know what to write. Don't make me hurt you further."
"I wouldn't dream of it," Zahra said, her voice wobbling. What if the Prince was still too weak to resist such a letter?
"Write it, Zahra," Cain said, his voice coming out as a low growl. He let go of Zahra's hair so that she was again able to look down.
There was no remedy to the tremors in Zahra's hands as she tried to smooth out the piece of paper she'd been given. Sighing, she dipped the pen in ink and began to write. Several times, she scratched the paper too hard, and blots of ink were spewed onto the paper. Yes, she had written countless times before, but her nerves were making the task nearly impossible.
When the task was finished, Zahra shoved the letter into Cain's hands and shuddered. "There. Now you have it."
"Thank-you, Little Sister," Cain sneered.
Zahra did not respond.
"And I'll be taking this," Cain said, fingering the crown and admiring the jewels with a greedy gleam in his eyes. "It's a thank-you to me for helping you decide if the Prince is trustworthy or not." He paused. "And what of the knight, Zahra?"
"What of the knight?" Zahra replied, ducking her head so that Cain couldn't see the worry that was surely visible in her eyes.
"He's sick, you know. If he dies, the kingdom will be weaker. Everyone knows this. Even the Prince himself, according to our spies."
"Why are you concerned about that?"
"A weaker kingdom means more opportunities for lowly bandits," Cain said, and Zahra was sickened at the hunger in his tone.
"But you have no effect on Adrian," Zahra said, but the statement was spoken as though it were a question. "You have no control over whether he lives or dies. Do you, Cain?"
"I don't have control, no. But one of my allies does. You might know him. Ivan, the little boy? The doctor sometimes tells Ivan to fetch certain medicines from the closet of medical supplies. What the doctor is too daft to notice is that Ivan doesn't always do as he's told." A disgusting smile slid across Cain's lips. "You see, we've told Ivan that if he helps us...he'll get his freedom."